Monday, September 24, 2012

Save Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid Your Damn Self

I find myself increasingly campaign-weary these days.  I'm awash in talking points and attack ads and blahblah.  One of the constant headaches is the constant harping on Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid.  Everybody agrees that these need fixing.  We've seen this coming for decades.  But they're just being used as tools of demogoguery.  Both sides are telling us how the other side wants to kill our grandparents.

Please.  Nobody wants to kill our grandparents.  Some of us want the programs to still be in place when we become grandparents.  But the current crop of grandparents frequently tries to stop that.  These programs are often referred to as the third rail of politics.  Not quite.  Old people are the third rail of politics.  This is because they're a large, growing, and reliable voting bloc.  They vote more than young people because their incomes are more likely to be affected by policy and they have more time on their hands.

I'm sick of slamming my head against that wall.  No matter who wins, no matter what we try to do to save entitlements, retirees will get in the way.  More ridiculous commercials with politicians pushing grandmothers over cliffs will be produced.  We've all been on the receiving end of a guilt trip from our grandmothers and grandfathers in our lives.  If a politician even imagines altering Social Security or Medicare, he gets a guilt trip from every retired person in the country.

Digging retirees out of their entrenched positions by charging the machine guns of the AARP seems like an exercise in futility.  Instead, I think regular people should take a different approach.  This means saving money and living right.  Maybe we can't change the programs, but we can take some of the heat off of them by taking better care of ourselves. 

A saw a story on the wires the other day.  We're getting fatter.  We'll be hugely fat in another few decades.  This needs to stop.  My own people are mostly responsible for this; obesity is concentrated in the South.  It's because we eat fried things and dead pigs.  For some reason, obesity is high amongst lower income people, particularly lower income minorities.  I find it strange that America is one of the few places in the world where one can be both poor and morbidly obese, but that's not the point I'm getting at today.  Lower income people will use Medicaid, and if they don't take care of themselves, the cost will be staggering.  Lower income people are also more likely to drink and smoke, which doesn't help.  The easiest way to save on medical expenses is to avoid getting sick.  We should all live better, and poorer people will do themselves a huge favor by not blowing their money on unhealthy habits.

I've blogged previously on my love of Southern food, but I don't make it a staple of my diet.  Fried chicken and barbecue are occasional indulgences for me, not nightly meals.  I cook my own meals rather than eating out.  I try to exercise four times a week for one hour, usually jogging.  It was rough at first, but I've made a habit out of it and have started to enjoy it.  Here's a hint.  Use an MP3 player and play loud and offensive heavy metal music while you jog.  The rage the music produces distracts from the pain and monotony of running.  Proper diet and exercise is my best medical insurance.

The other thing I'm doing is saving money.  I've worked in the financial field before, and I've always been surprised at how few people save for retirement.  Another wire story I read recently told me that 401ks had failed the country.  Not exactly.  They work fine, but most people don't take advantage of them.  So I'm starting.  If I put aside $500 a month until I retire, I'll have over a million dollars when I retire.  Assuming about 10% growth, which isn't that hard to do.

Granted, saving money is hard these days.  Many people claim they don't have money to spare.  But I find that there's more money to go around because I'm not blowing it on take-out, dining out, drinking and smoking, amongst other things. My fiscal diet and physical diet are intertwined.  I make a point of saving the money and it happens.

I'd love to see the government take a diet of sorts, but I'm not holding my breath.  I'll assume that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicare are inevitable train wrecks.  Let the politicians hammer away.  If the rest of us focus entirely on taking care of ourselves, mind, body, and bank account, we won't need these programs.  Maybe I'll use Medicare eventually, if it's still around, but maybe I won't need it until I'm 80 or so because I'll be in good health.  Maybe I'll collect Social Security, if it's still around, but maybe I won't need it because I'll have millions in savings.  If the government can save me, more power to them.  I think we'll all be better off if we make it unnecessary for government to save us.

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