Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Grasshoppers and Ants

Last week my quarterly retirement statements arrived. While my losses are not nearly as bad as some folks’, they weren't good news.

Part of what makes this such a pisser is disappointment: I thought I'd be at Point X by this time in my life, and it turns out I'm only somewhere around Point M.

Another part is the suddenness: It has taken me 35 years of doing without things to amass some retirement savings. And now, in less than six months, the whole picture has changed. My bon voyage date is disappearing on the horizon like a cowboy in a spaghetti western.

But the thing that really sucks is knowing that I'm pretty much the same shape as the people who've spent those years blowing every dime they got their hands on. The only real joy we ants have is the knowing the grasshoppers will be shivering in the cold while we're all snug in our paid-off ant-hills.

There are a couple of houses in my neighborhood that (apparently) have been foreclosed. One is a two-story sand-colored brick. There’s a boarded-up hole on the side where a bay window used to be.

The other is a little cottage that had a replica of the Liberty Bell in the front yard. I used to drive by there and wonder what that Liberty Bell meant to them. Was it their version of flying the flag, or sporting a yellow ribbon magnet on their car?

So I guess there are plenty of grasshoppers out there whose teeth are chattering. Along with their little grasshoppers, who don’t understand why they can’t live in their own house and go to their own school anymore.

Turns out watching grasshoppers turn blue isn't much fun after all.


  1. Well, it's always possible a huge rogue asteroid will come by and smash into the Earth and kill us all.

  2. I really liked this post. Started with a high and ended with a reality slap in the face. Nicely done. Good point. Well said.

  3. It's very stressful. Aside from the stress of our own future plans (which are thankfully in the far enough distance that we can still hope things will be better), I'm far more worried for my parents, my husband's parents, and my grandparents. You know, the people who are supposed to be using this money either now or in the very near future. Yikes.

    Hang in there, little ant!

  4. Hard to know how to live your life. YOu want to enjoy it in the here and now, and yet...

    And if you scrimp and save, you end up with nothing anyway...

    Awful stuff going on everywhere, that's for sure.

  5. I'm terrified of the same thing. We have the house paid-off, but the whole retirement bundle is dwindling with the market. Guess we'd better plan for huge vegetable gardens, chickens and goats in the future.

  6. OMG! This is Earth Day!
    Don't you all see where we're headed?


  7. I chose early retirement in October, only to watch my life savings and house value plunge much like yours.. I wanted to start a little business, but that must wait until there is some business! I do get a little bitter about the "grasshoppers" too, as they had nothing- they lost nothing, and the people that were in hock up to their ears, just walked away from the debt or were forgiven portions of it.
    The middle class is shrinking, and socialism is looming on the horizon for America- unless we start taking care of America before helping the entire world..

  8. I think my big take away from all this is to be very conservative with my accounts as my retirement date gets close.

    I am also an ant.

    It really isn't much to laugh at the grasshoppers.

  9. please don't keep saying that you're retired! I SAW your pics and you are my age!!!! Aren't you?????

  10. Not to get into what is going on in my house right now, but my friends are telling me because my husband makes way more money than theirs do, why do I not go out and buy new clothes and all the luxuries they feel they would. I grew up poor, with a father from the depression, so he taught me some good 'anting' tactics, and I just will not be frivolous as my friends tell me...I spend it on ingredients, and we save the rest for the future...

    I Nicely done btw, and our retirement savings also are not what we thought...seems grim that my son is going to college (because I did without and saved), but will he have a job when he is done?

  11. Interesting how with a turn of events we all end up in the same boat! The irony of true connections.

  12. You nailed it when you said that the thing that really sucks is knowing that "I'm pretty much the same shape as the people who've spent those years blowing every dime they got their hands on." It kills me to think I could have lived it up on my savings instead of losing it. Ugh.

  13. I figure I will have to work until Im 80. I will be using a walker telling patients to "Follow me" and they will be on their walker......And I hate getting that 401k statement. Way too depressing.

  14. I suppose this is the same feeling I get when my husband explains to me what my social security statement means. Because in the 14 years I have been legal to work I think I have made 15K.


  15. Nice Post. I'm sure in the coming months we will see more people who we assumed were ants who actually happen to be grasshoppers. I'm probably one of them. Sorry about your retirement.

  16. Thanks for your visit to my blog. I have been by yours before, and really enjoy your posts.

    Good luck getting to point X. Don't forget to enjoy yourself a bit along the way though.

  17. I haven't even opened the last statements..too depressing. Everyone is in the same boat..except those with the golden parachutes that our grandkids will end up paying for. It is a shame that the politicals (all of them) can't balence the budget and just say NO. :(

  18. In the middle of the night
    In the middle of my ear
    A moment with a melody comes clear

    I reach and find the blanket,
    A soft and worthless friend
    A gift where sleep can never, never end...

  19. that's what kills me too. You save they spend and we are all screwed

  20. Yes I know exactly what you mean. Ride it out,that's all we can do. And yes I want to read a post about your father.

  21. On the point of being frugal or living it up - would you have been happy living from day to day without a safety net? Some people are and some people aren't. I was, but now, with two children to provide for, I'm not. There was a crash in the UK in 1990 - I was there with a tonne of negative equity in a property in London. But I supplemented my job with bar work and filled the place with lodgers. I ended up sleeping in the sitting room. I kept the property, interest rates dropped and we came through without donating the property to the mortgages company. There is life after recession...

  22. No that wouldn't be fun at all.

    I don't think they should board up the houses in a neighbourhood.


  23. The first time, reading this, and also the comments, I begun to understand what all this crisis is about.

    I am between those who spend, most what they had. First to eat and pay rent, never had "my" house, then to educate my children. I feel, that education is remaining and helping and cannot go away with financial crises. But I also traveled.

    Never had much left in the bank.

    But in France, we have retirement from the State, and the other organisms, for the moment, did not stop either to pay what they used. Which make me up to around the minimal wage of a hand worker. After 45 years work.

    I do not mind.

    I am really sorry for all of you who lost, who put all aside for "after" - I just hope the crisis will go away and you'll be able to afford finally the "after" and do your dreams.

    At worst, learn how one can travel and be happy with less money also. Eat from what you buy in the markets, go to the cheep hotel, but still have your dreams. That is how I travel and I enjoy it at least as much as those in four star hotels.

    Discover joys you could have, do not let the worry put you down!

  24. loved the post.....nicely done.


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