Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Scrambled Eggs

I got the information in the mail on Friday. The stocks my former employer had purchased in my name totaled almost ten thousand dollars. It was one of the few benefits I reaped from working at the bank. I was giddy. I calculated, quickly, how much of that would have to go to taxes in 2007, then how much would be left over. I fantasized about paying off my car and my credit card - the only debt I have in my life, besides my phone - and tucked the paperwork back into its official-looking envelope.

"Dare I say it?" I said to my mom. "That things could be -"

"Don't!" She interrupted. "Don't jinx it!" She knew I was going to say Things could be working out for me.

"Oh! Right!" I said, and we shared a giggle over our insane attachment to superstition. But I still thought it: Yes, this is all going to work out.

I called my "Financial Advisor" yesterday to tell him the good news. We had already discussed what I'd do with the money once I got the statement. I told my friends, my family, my boss that I'd be debt free just as soon as everything went through. Visions of extra money each paycheck danced in my head as I faxed the statement and the accompanying paperwork into my advisor. Mentally, I had already written out the checks that would rid me of my monthly obligation to the bank and the credit card company. I was as good as unchained from debt.

And then I got the call.

"Uh, Laurie," Pat, my advisor, said into the receiver, "this is a retirement plan. If you take it out, you're going to pay a hefty penalty to the government on top of having to claim whatever you take as income."

I wasn't aware of any penalties.

Quickly, I scanned the documents that came with the statement. Clearly, I had been blinded by the bottom-line total of my money, and paid little attention to the subparagraph 1-B that said withdrawing any money while I'm under 59 and a half years of age - I suppose that "and a half" is very important - will result in a penalty. Taking anything will cost me 30% of whatever I take. Minimum.

"But," Pat continued, "you can roll it over into your current retirement account, or another qualified plan, and there aren't any taxes or penalties." His voice was hopeful, suggesting that I shouldn't be as pissed off as I was starting to sound.

"But I already have a retirement account. I wanted to use this now." It wasn't his fault that I didn't pay attention to what the bank gave me. I suppose the fault was solely mine. But I was still angry. I was so ready to have that extra money. So ready. And, just as quickly as I found it in my mailbox, it was gone.

My mood, since I accepted the fact that I will still have to pay my credit card bill and car loan every month, has been gloomy. It's like I have this little dark cloud hanging over me. The money was right there, so close I could almost taste it - or use it, as it were - and then it was ripped away from me. It felt like the bank seized one last opportunity to fuck me. And that just brings me down.

So, naturally, I was late getting up this morning. And I knocked over bottles on the bathroom counter while I did my hair. And I got stuck behind a bus on my drive in to work. I can literally feel my nerves, and everything that's getting on them. My hair is pissing me off, my shirt itches, and I feel fat.

Yes, obviously, I'm in the throes of a feminine cycle. Obviously. But I think that if even I weren't, I would be irritated right now. Because all it takes for me is one inconvenience or disappointment - like ten thousand dollars that I can't use until I'm Fifty-Nine-And-A-Half years old - and suddenly any and every occurrence in my day is a possible catalyst to a breakdown. I just know I'm going to cry before this day is over. I just know it.

I suppose this is what happens when you count your chickens before they hatch; You don't get chickens at all. Just eggs. Fucking eggs.


portuguesa nova said...

Oh my God...but it is still $10,000...and it'll be worth way more than that by the time you're 59. Way to go, lady, for having a retirement account, by the way!

Anonymous said...

fuckin eggs

The Editter said...

or it's $6,000+ now, which sounds like it would be worth more to you now than $10,000+ at retirement?

Laurie said...

I thought of that, too, Editter. But the truth is, I can afford to pay my bills every month, I just didn't want to have to pay my bills every month. So, hopefully, it'll grow exponentially over the next thirty-odd years and I'll be RICH at fifty-nine-and-a-half.


I won't hold my breath for that. But at least I know I won't have to eat cat food or anything during my first year of retirement. ;)

Anonymous said...

is this where we are supposed to feel sorry for you just getting $10,000?


Shawn said...

It's usually not an additional 30% penalty. That's usually just what they hit you with total.

But I just figure that taxes are 25% anyway. Mostly advisors are uptight about cashing out retirement funds.

Either way, that's pretty cool to find you have some money...for now or later.

Kristi said...

I read this and thought to m,yself....'crap that how i feel about Big'
You think you've got it and then....oops...nope. Just kidding!
But it will be there like you said for your first year so thats something. You're only in your mid twenties be happy.
I have zeros staring me in the face for retirement and I'm mid 30's.....
I will be eating cat food

Anonymous said...

Live each day as if it were your last...take that money out and loose 30%.......who cares! You have plenty of time to save for retirement, you're young!

Laurie said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.