Having found I would have the opportunity to talk at length to the oldest daughter, who has a Master’s in Business Administration, worked for A.G. Edwards, is a trained tax preparer and is currently at work in a bank, I had sat for a while and reflected on my relationship to Capitalism and “wealth.”
I inherited money saved and invested by my parents. My father worked in the corporate world for three and a half decades and he and my mother chose to put money away in the ways that they were “supposed” to to build wealth in the United States. They bought a house. They bought a vacation cottage, more real estate, riverfront property in North Central Florida. They invested in IRA’s and C.D.’s and insurance policies.
They built, using “surplus” income not required for daily survival.
Dad had a real retirement plan from his company, a huge timber corporation based in the Northwest. He got a pension. He got medical insurance. So did my mother, because she was his wife. This was regularly available then: You worked, often for the same company, for twenty, thirty, or more, years and there was a plan, a company plan, a plan run by, or at least for, the company, a plan that was part of your job, that was designed to provide you with a pension and health insurance for the rest of your and your spouse’s life when you completed your career.
He retired, and his pension began and continued, as did his medical coverage, to the day he died and then for the eleven succeeding years of my mother’s life. When she died the remaining funds came to me.
That was 2007.
I’m a bright guy, both talented and capable. As I have said in other places, if you leave me the materials and I have the tools, I can start on a flat spot and leave you a nice, snug frame house to live in when I’m finished … all learned from study and experience. I can read and understand and I can put instructions effectively to use.
Hand me a financial statement and, although I can clearly see each and every word and that those words are words I even recognize and whose meanings I understand, I’m utterly and hopelessly bewildered. Makes NO sense to me. Lots of things are like that, for example … ohhhh, say the details of the workings of a jet engine, or the communication system that allows for control of the airplane. Totally unknown to me. I know, however, that there ARE people who DO understand these things, who work on them and keep them functioning properly and so, without extensive technical preparation for understanding the technology … I fly. I choose to trust the professionalism and knowledgeability of those people and I use the product they produce.
I found myself in possession of nearly $80,000.00 … money that my father had generated and my parents had siphoned from the stream of income to invest, to participate in the REAL “American Dream,” to “generate wealth,” and I now had that money and the “wealth” it had generated. I sought out a professional, a REAL professional, actively at work IN the field … a “Vice President of Wealth Management” in one of the country’s largest and most successful financial companies. He had been recommended by name by a client for whom he had “generated” a great DEAL of “wealth.”
We sat, he, my wife and I, and we talked and we looked and we made the arrangements that put the “wealth” in his care in that company’s structure to conTINue to “generate wealth.” Nearly eighty thousand dollars from a family that had started in a tourist court in Fort Myers, grown through times when my father swept the barber shop floor for quarters to help support himself as he studied art and my mother budgeted food in pennies and nickels, a family which got its first new car thirteen years later having landed in a medium-sized Florida city, first in rented apartments and finally in a house built from a set of options to their specifications in the suburbs, wealth generated over the course of three and a half decades of success as a “Senior Account Manager” over the road first five and then only three days a week for that whole career.
That was the “out”come of my parent’s “American Dream,” their actual climb into the middle of the Middle Class in the United States.
I listened carefully, chose with equal care, and left the money to build … to do what “wealth” is supposed to do in the Capitalist economy … to grow … in 2007.
Stretching back across the years my family had been the very epitome of the “American Dream” of the age (“As seen on TV”). Both had been Marines in WWII, leveraging themselves with the new “G.I. Bill” into a college education, dad studying art early then mom studying nursing and going to work with a physician in private practice to help make the money that first moved us out of the second floor apartment and into “our” first house down in Gandy Gardens, quitting and “returning home” afterwards as the equity built in the little house that allowed the move to the suburbs into the house “built for us.”
They amassed nearly eighty thousand dollars in “wealth” in addition to the houses and the cottage.
… and I very carefully invested it with “The Best” to continue to dream the dream … in 2007.
… and the next thing I knew I had FORTY thousand dollars. The rest was “gone.” Now, mind you, it’s not the profits, the money that the money had MADE, that went away … although THAT certainly did … No, what went away, disappeared, was half of what my parents had worked for over a generation to amass, their “American Dream,” the ostensible foundation of the possibility of building wealth.
THAT was irrevocably and utterly vanished. I had it. I put it in accounts designed by the “Best There Is” to increase as the cornerstone upon which and threshold over which my family could now, according to the “Experts,” the “Financial Wizards” of Capitalism, build and pass toward “wealth” … and … it disappeared. What I already HAD … not what I “made” … what I “had” … gone.
… and what was the reaction? Palms up, head tilted with eyebrows raised, shrug.
“Gee … uhhhh … wow.”
The “Vice President for Wealth Management” was genuinely chagrined and, at least as far as I can tell, did HIS job “as usual,” following the “rules” of “investment” that were the blueprint for using money to make more money. He didn’t spirit my money off to a hot weekend in Cancun … nor was he driving a new Ferrari (I know, that’s only a small down payment on ANY Ferrari) … No, he did what he was supposed to do, professionally and knowledgeably and with suitable dignity and demeanor.
He had his job. The company was still in business doing what it had been doing. In fact it “merged” with another such trusted edifice of Capitalism to become a “Four Name Behemoth,” even bigger than it had been when it was “Too Big to Fail.” That merger was made possible in part by MORE of my money, called “taxes,” paid from my real-time day-in-and-day out job, and called “Stimulus Money” that my government … simply handed to the people who had presided over what EVER the HELL that was … whatever that was where half of over a generation of work and honest participation in “The System” simply disappears and there’s not even a ripple …
Half my “fortune” was gone. I watched. No one was “perp walked” out of their suite, away from their desk or even their cubicle. I watched. Nothing …
Now, that money went somewhere. It was there, having been earned by labor across decades, and it went somewhere, as things do not, in THIS Universe, simply disappear. It was mine, bequeathed and entrusted to me by the people who DID the labor across the decades, and I gave it to professionals to use to make MORE … and it was … taken? It WENT somewhere, and NO one can say … WHERE. It didn’t blow out of the bucket on the way up the hill or burn in the fire with the mattress into which it was sewn. It isn’t buried in a forgotten location because of my loss of memory. There was no “tsunami” and it washed out to sea. It went into “The System” because “The System” uses money to make money.
… and (I am invited to believe) ”It’s simply GONE!!”
Bullshit. SOMEone got it.
… and I continue to watch and not ONE SINGLE individual has been apprehended and charge with theft.
This exact experience was provided to MILLIONS OF AMERICANS. We worked for or were stewards for whatever we or our families had diverted from the cash flow from jobs worked day after day after week after week … year after year after year … and we “invested” that money in the system that makes the wealth, the system designed to make the wealth, and not only did the “profits” disappear … THE MONEY DISAPPEARED!!!
Billions and billions and HUNDREDS of billions … trillions? … of dollars, dollars earned at labor, dollars that were THERE … we are invited to believe … DIS … a … FUCKING PEARED!!!
At that point I found I had a choice: I could take what was left of my parents’ generation of work … thereby “cementing” the loss, or I could leave what was left of it in the system that had made half of it “disappear” and hope it would somehow … grow (reappear?). All this time the people who RAN this system were being paid bonuses that MY pittance was too small to buy a big enough wheelbarrow to carry, and … the government was sending them MORE of my money, for free, and they were turning around and lending it back to that very government for profit!!
I do not think I am the only American who noticed this. I find, for some reason, that my attitude toward “Capitalism” and “business” and its “association” with “government” is a bit … sour? … a bit on the cynical side?
I also noticed that, like the electric company, there is no OTHER system to which I can turn for the service. If I have something to invest it must be in THAT system. THAT system is essentially worldwide and, judging by the condition of the economies across the globe, has functioned similarly everywhere: There was money. It “disappeared.”
I suffer from “Dreamus Interruptus,” (and a mild case of P.T.S.D.) My future is VERY different from the one that, in fact, was offered to me as a goal, a reward, for working “in the system” and doing what I was told would establish the possibility for my family to begin to build wealth.
I did my part. My family did its part.
OK, I’ll give you the “profits,” which I’m willing to consider “unearned.” Where did MY money go? Who has THAT? That WAS “earned” and was NOT “paper proceeds.” How come REAL money can simply disappear from people who earn it and the people who are in charge of the system that made it disappear not only keep doing what they were doing, they are paid MORE … bonuses … ?
I think these questions, either consciously or not, are present for MILLIONS of us across this nation, and I’m not requesting that you answer them. This is just a rambling rant to arrive at “Where I am” with our “financial system” currently.