By J. Paul Lombardo
In January of this year, I received a notice from the New York State Teachers' Retirement System that based on a change in my Federal Tax Withholding, my monthly retirement payment (which I paid most of into the system myself because I worked under Tier 3 of the Retirement System until the policy of paying into the system changed about two-thirds into my career) increased by $6.66 per month.
Fearing that this increase in my income might force me into a higher tax bracket, I immediately panicked, until I contacted someone who knows finances and he told me he didn't think I'd have to worry. Then began the wondering what to do with this whopping $79.92 addition to my annual income. Should we take a trip, put it toward a new car? I just couldn't make up my mind, so I decided to put that money in the bank and let it earn annual interest, which just might push it to over 80 dollars. (Of course, that interest will be taxable.)
A funny thing happened though, on my way to the Credit Union. Gas prices shot up about 50-plus cents a gallon since January. Health insurance premium costs rose about $38.50 per month, food costs are predicted to go up because of the unusually warm winter we just enjoyed, not to mention that, as many hard working people are doing, we are trying to help our recently college graduated son pay back his ungodly tuition payments while he tries to land a job in his field of study. So now I am torn on which of these things to use my "raise in pay."
It was recently reported that recipients of New York state public assistance benefits will enjoy not only one, but two "pay" raises this coming year totaling about a 10 percent increase. I wonder if the recipients of these increases in their monthly payments will face the same dilemma I had, you know, how to spend the new windfall?
Since that story came out, many have voiced their opinion regarding the fortunes of the recipients of this increase in their monthly assistance. Some of these opinions might sound envious, that someone may have gotten something that others would have liked to have had bestowed upon them. As I read and heard some of these opinions, I kind of heard frustration in their opinions, rather than envy. Maybe this frustration comes from knowing that those expressing the opinions work hard to make what they make, to have what they have, and to give whatever opportunities to their families as they can by earning them. Maybe a bit of the frustration comes from seeing some who will receive these "benefit" raises abuse how their benefits are presently used, or see how some recipients enjoy other luxuries (smartphones, iPads, iPods, etc.) that they (the opinionators) can't afford to enjoy themselves because they don't earn enough in their jobs to be able to have them. Maybe it's because they see those receiving the increases in benefits also receive more in free and reduced lunches, not only in schools, but on the playgrounds during the summer, and their (the opinionators) children are feeding on whatever their parents can afford to buy through their earnings. Maybe it's because their (the opinionators') children don't receive free or reduced memberships to recreational centers (i.e., the YMCA, the Boys' and Girls' Clubs, etc.), but that is offered to some of the children of the receivers of the public assistance. Maybe it is because the opinionators are beginning to wonder why they should work in the first place, if there might be more to be gained from not working. Maybe it's just that the opinionators are plain fed up with not only raising their families, but ending up raising (financially) other people's families too.
I am sure many of the opinionators are very gratified that some of their tax dollars help some people who truly need help and assistance, but it's understandable when the opinionators feel the frustration of having to watch some of their already high taxes go to feed, clothe, entertain and provide luxuries to those who are able-bodied persons who in many, many cases choose not to work but rather to reap the benefits, and raises in benefits, provided by the hard-working persons in their communities, states and country.
As much as I thought during my youth that my dad was never right, I learned that later on that he was always right, but maybe he was only 99 percent right. The one percent lies in his telling us many times that there is "no such thing as a free lunch." I have to say that he was not 100 percent correct in that statement. From my observations, and those of many of the opinionators responding to the news that recipients of public assistance would be getting the two raises this year, that statement needs to be tweaked to read, "there is no such thing as a free lunch, but some can get free breakfast, lunch, dinner, insurance, technology, recreation and entertainment."
Ah, but I digress from my original question of what I should do with the raise in my retirement "benefits" that is really burning a hole in my pocket. I'd appreciate any suggestions from my friends. Any ideas?