Friday, January 2, 2009

The Fixed Income Myth

When I worked as a bill collector, a common excuse among senior citizens for their inability to make their payments is that they were having a hard time due to being on a "fixed income", usually social security. At the time I didn't understand the significance of that phrase, but I suspected it was a bogus alibi.

Now that my wife and I are retired and are the ones collecting social security (which is about 90% of our total income) it turns out that I was right. First of all, we both just received an annual 5.8% COLA increase to our benefit's effective this month. Secondly, as a percentage that number is greater than what I sometimes received when I was employed. Finally, social security is a guaranteed income, unlike wages which of course terminate when your job ends.

I recall once reading a complaint in a newspaper from an elderly woman on social security who said that she was hard up and her favorite restaurant—where she goes for breakfast every morning—didn't offer senior citizen discounts. Goes for breakfast every morning? If she's so damn poor, why is she spending money on dining out daily? And where is it written that senior disocunts are a right?

When I was working, my wife and I were lucky if we went out to a restaurant once a week. Now that we're no longer employed, and our income has been reduced accordingly, we have to be even more careful than before with our expenses. Just because we're older doesn't give us license to behave irrresponsibly or demand special treatment.

In short, the only thing that's "fixed" in receiving this type of income is the rigid outlook and misplaced entitlement attitude of some of its recipients.