Once Thanksgiving is over, I always want to watch the movie " Christmas Vacation." Its a Chevy Chase classic where he plays Clark Griswold, aka Sparky, and Beverly D'Angelo is his wife, Ellen. Together, with their two children, the family struggles through a series of unending Christmas-season disasters.
Maybe I love the movie so much because I identify with Clark. The guy who wants his family to experience his version of a “real” Christmas. It starts with the family going into the woods to pick and harvest the tree. Seeing him careen across field onto highway ending up driving under a huge truck is hilarious. But, Clark is at his best when it comes to decorating the house with Christmas lights. I really see myself there. All that work and damn lights still won't turn on.
A focal event in the movie is his expectation of a Christmas bonus. He’s planned on installing a swimming pool and has already placed a down payment. Now all he needs is that Christmas bonus to make it happen. The problem comes when his scrooge boss, instead of the traditional bonus, gives Clark a year’s membership in the “Jelly of the Month” club.
The realization that there is no bonus, and therefore no pool, pushes Clark over the edge, and we see how he handles great financial disappointment. (Hey, I’d be disappointed too if my dream of skinny dipping with the sexy negligee department saleswoman Mary, played by Nicolette Scorsese, was suddenly stolen.)
This brings me to my point.
The disappointment of having saved and planned for something, only to have it ripped from your grasp by uncontrollable forces is what we baby boomers are feeling right now about our retirement investments. Wall Street’s greedy financial thieves and their patrons have destroyed plans that took us average folks a lifetime to create. And there’s nothing we can do about it.
From here, I see an industry that created a spiderweb of financial properties no one understood, all because it generated for them, huge profits. Then, as the house of cards began crashing, they hid the truth with more smoke and mirrors than a David Copperfield act. With their companies’ bottom lines redder than the crowd at an Oklahoma/Nebraska football game, these thieves continued to drive their companies into the ground. Oh yea, all the while paying themselves tens of millions of dollars in salary and bonuses.
Yet, when the crap finally hits the fan, what do these bums do? They come crawling to Uncle Sam, crying, “Bail me out. If you don’t, the sky will fall.”
And surprise, surprise, that’s exactly what Uncle Sam does.
These Wall Street bandits, along with Freddie Mac, Fanny May and their most-willing accomplices in Congress have brought upon this country the most severe economic crisis since the depression of 1931. And it didn’t have to happen!
We can search all day for someone to blame, but it doesn’t matter. There’s so much finger pointing and cover ups going on that the truth won’t be known for years. By then, the people responsible will have moved on, all the while managing to protect their collective butts, and huge salaries and bonuses.
So, where does all this leave the rest of us, we Clark and Ellen Griswolds?
It means most of us won’t have the kind of retirement we spent decades working for. Now, we’ll be forced to remain in the workforce for who knows how many additional years. Get used to seeing someone you mom’s age at the grocery cash register. That greeter at Wal-Mart won’t be getting any younger, and he could be your dad.
The first of the baby boomers should have begun retirement next year. Instead, for most, it’ll be more years of working, trying to save and postponing what was rightfully ours.
I really thought I’d be able to “hang it up” and relax after another five or seven years. Now, the only thing many of my generation will be hanging up is our Wall-Mart or Home Depot apron at the end of a long day.
After working and saving for what seems like a lifetime (in reality is has been) baby boomers are discovering that retirement any time soon no longer possible. And, unless some miracle happens, for many, that may never happen. The phrase “I’ll never be able to retire” used to be meant as a joke. Today, it’s the truth. And it didn’t have to happen.
How do today’s events make you feel? I’d love to hear.