They tell me it’s free money. They tell me there’s a guaranteed return on investment. They tell me it’s a win-win scenario and I’d be stupid not to participate. “They” say a lot of things.
My boss regularly harasses me to contribute to the 401k retirement program at work. Like many other plans, the company matches my contribution up to a certain amount. I told them I want nothing to do with the damned thing, and get blank stares in return. I find usury in any form to be nefarious at best. Someone or something is getting screwed in this deal, and I don’t like it for sure.
Sure, I should plan for my retirement; I’m not stupid. It’s just that I have a moral opposition to gambling with my future. More than that, I have issue with some over paid money changer making bets on my behalf as to the direction the stock market is going to go; “UP!” is the hopeful consensus.
Well, maybe I don’t want it to go up. Maybe I want it to go down along with the rest of the economy to something resembling a steady state arrangement where people’s basic needs are actually met without all the waste of the growth obsessed capitalist rat race.
This money thrown on the pile is invested in a multitude of different industries. Companies need investment, but how do these enterprises behave? How do they treat their employees? Do they make a product or provide a service which is beneficial to the people and the world as a whole? Are their interests aligned with mine? Do they lobby congress to water down environmental regulation or to rubber stamp another pointless military campaign in the interests of profit? Who exactly made the product that results in returns on my investment? Do they get to participate democratically in the process of appropriating the surplus? I doubt it.
These are questions that remain unanswered, so I refuse to play that game. I’m not a big gambler and as far as I’m concerned, the stock market is the biggest bookie operation of them all; far exceeding the money handled in Las Vegas. Hell, does anyone remember the cyclic ups and downs of the last 150 years; the fickle nature of the economy? There hasn’t been a real recovery since “The Great Recession” began way back in 2008, and I’m supposed to count on my deferred wages plus a hefty return, to come back to me in forty of fifty years?
I don’t count on seeing real recovery. Do I have an alternative plan? Not exactly. I have a nest egg; I stay out of debt; we’d be alright if I lost my job suddenly. Our living costs are on their way down, which makes it easier to save for things, and also makes the notion of retirement less daunting.
I must develop a more fitting plan for my future, but I fail to see how tying my future well being to the health of the economy, when so much is set to change in the next fifty years. Learn to live small. Use less. Adapt. Change. Evolve. Question everything. And, don’t eat the Soylent Green.