Sunday, March 8, 2009

Springing forward

The days of watching the sun rise are over for now. This is the moon at 5:30 this morning, seen through my bedroom window which is apparently not very clean. I bravely sprang forward, but some members of the household were less keen.

Now it is probably time to start writing in some way about retirement planning, but I have been procrastinating over that. So let me take the bull by the horns--or should I say, the bear by the...--and mention my 403b, which is not unlike a 401k except that you pay into a 403b if you work for a tax-exempt organization as I do, while a for-profit organization should have a 401k plan.

There, I mentioned it. Now what. Oh yes, the reason my checking account is down to a single digit this weekend is obviously because I am paying too much money into my 403b and had better scale back my savings. Save too much, and you get into the kind of situation I am in today. I would be wondering how on earth to pay for the guinea pigs' timothy grass and the dogs' Mother Hubbard, were it not for my secret weapon. Did you know about the Ing Direct overdraft facility? It's a life saver. Those guinea pigs would be on the road to all kinds of vitamin deficiencies--scurvy, pellagra, beri beri-- were it not for the availability of instant cash through Ing. As it is, look at Button--she doesn't seem too worried.

Another thing about 403bs: there are times when you pay in your $100 per paycheck, you do that for a 3 months and you figure OK I must be $600 richer. Then you look at your account and your 403b has magically reduced that $600 to $400. That's the power of compound disinterest. Moral--keep an eye on those 403bs. I went for years just letting money trickle into mine and not thinking much about it. Then came the economic downturn so I thought I'd better take a look. Lucky I did! The compound disinterest was running amok. I called TIAACREF, breathlessly requesting that my savings be transferred into a no-risk account. What I failed to ask was that all savings from that moment should also go into the no-risk account, so while most of the old money was safe, the new funds kept on disappearing.

Finally I figured out what was going on and learned that you have to be very vigilant, or else your little green shoots of savings will be eaten by Madoffs and corporate CEOs.


  1. finally a retirement dialogue that speaks to me!!! My best strategies have been to leave well enough alone, easy when you have nothing to fiddle with in the first place!

  2. Thank you for posting this! I never think about this stuff, except for the occasional "I really should do something about that account." OK I'm really going to do it this time. Today. At least one phone call.

  3. Thanks for this advice, I'm really going to call about it this time...


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Anglo-Brooklyn by Joy Holland is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.