Hindsight IS clearer than foresight… but it also hurts sometimes

Last night, I was reading Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. Highly recommended, and a great alternative view of personal finance. I actually found it at the Goodwill Store for like 99 cents, so yay me!

Anyway, one of the exercises in this book is to research how much money you’ve earned over your entire working life…. and compare it to what you have to show for it today. I knew this would be painful, but I had no idea how painful.

As it happens– one of those little synchronicities in life that make me shudder– in the mail earlier in the day, I’d received my Social Security Statement, which of course lists how much money you’ve earned each year of your working life!

Theoretically, if by some miracle Social Security hasn’t totally imploded by then, if I retire at age 70, I’ll be getting $938 a month. I also learned that if I become disabled right now, I would be eligible for $1,009 a month in benefits. Great.

Of course, there’s always an asterisk:

Your estimated benefits are based on current law. Congress has made changes to the law in the past and can do so at any time.

That’s just way too depressing. Back to the lifetime earnings.

So this morning, I did the math. I added up the earnings for every year since 1985, when I was 16 and worked at McDonald’s for the going minimum wage of $3.10 per hour*.

My grand total for twenty-two years of work:

$ 341,918.00

Assuming that it’s prudent to save a minimum 10% of your income, this means I should have over $34,000 in savings today… plus heaps of compound interest over the years.

I can assure you I do not have any such thing.



* 2004 was a better year: I earned $27,137 while running a photo lab/ portrait studio. As I recall, I was making $12 an hour plus 20% of the studio gross. I made a lot of brats smile pretty that year. 🙂


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Filed under books, budget, frugal, money management, personal finance, thrift stores

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