Independence is something we have to work for throughout our lifetimes, whether we want to or not. As babies, we push our way up from four limbs to two and start walking our way into messes. As toddlers, we profess “No!” and “Mine!” to make our point. In the teenage years, we rebel against parents in an effort to earn independence.
The fight for independence doesn’t end in adulthood, as we manage relationships with significant others and bosses throughout our careers. And finally, we grow older and retire. While many of us would love to have millions of dollars so we could avoid any dependence on government entitlement programs, most retirees rely on Social Security and Medicare benefits to supplement their income and take care of a large portion of their medical expenses.
While the word “entitlement” often receives a bad rap, its true meaning is appropriate. Workers contribute 6.2 percent (on wages up to $127,200 per year) for Social Security old age, survivor and disability insurance and 1.45 percent of their earnings for Medicare throughout their working lives as a FICA tax, which stands for the Federal Insurance Contributions Act. In other words, it’s like deferring part of your pay toward a pension in retirement, which you are most certainly “entitled” to.
However, entitlement benefits are limited. As the quest for independence continues, it’s important to accumulate income for retirement through other sources, such as a pension or 401(k) plan and personal savings. The quality of our retirement lifestyle may well be defined by how much each of us saves and how we manage our finances. And fortunately, that’s one of the most satisfying measures of independence.
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