Friday, May 19, 2017

The right to retire, or, should we depend on others for it?

A friend of my father's was talking to him once, and as is often the case in times like these the two of them were discussing the current economy. More to the point, they were thinking out loud about some of the presumed rights and wrongs which people commonly accept as givens. "But why should anyone think they have a right to retire?" my Dad's friend asked, in getting the conversation rolling.

Why indeed. Not that many of us want to work our entire lives (I certainly hope to retire someday) but it is fair to ask who is responsible for that presumed eventuality. Many workers appear to believe that the company which hires them is responsible for it. Despite the way the system, such as it is, has been set up the last several decades, I have to conclude that is the worker himself who ought to see to his old age more than the company which gives him employment.

I realize that there are more issues than that involved: legal questions, perhaps, or contract issues which guarantee retirement plans. I'm not calling any of that wrong on their own merits; but one does wonder if they are ill advised. It depends, to a degree anyway, on circumstance. But I am more concerned here on whether it is a good idea to assume that someone else should prepare for your retirement. What happens, as seems to be happening lately in some quarters, when that someone can't manage it? Who's hurt the most? We ought to be quicker to question what laws and contracts ought and ought not attempt to ensure.

Much of the problem stems from a certain arrogance on the part of many employees. They feel they're owed...something. And again, as contract or law may require, maybe they are. Still, when I hear, as I have heard from many sources over many years, workers saying stuff such as, "I gave the company the best years of my life.", my first thought is: Gave? You mean they didn't pay you?

Many lament companies outsourcing or sending jobs to other states or even overseas, as though the company, I'll say it again, owes them. I think the correct perspective to put against that question is simply asking the worker, 'Would you leave the company for a dollar an hour more?' If you answer yes, and I will suggest that you are not being wholly honest if you do not, then you need to reconsider any complaint about a company seeking a better deal for itself.

I am just scratching the surface here, but my main point is this. We need to learn to depend on ourselves for the important things in life. When we give to others, any others, responsibility for ourselves or our futures, we may be giving away more than we can afford. The best way to avoid that is to look to yourself for your well being and dignity. You cannot presume, with any moral certainty, that someone else really has your best interests in hand.

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