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Essential Boredom

06/04/2021

During my school years, math and science were important to me.  I appreciated the clarity of thinking and crispness of conclusions.  It was science or “hard” power!

English and government were also important to me.  I appreciated the wide, leisurely thinking, complete with fuzzy nuances.  It was art or “soft” power!

However, Latin and French just sucked!  There were no new concepts nor original thinking.  It was just memory-work!

During my working years, I’ve enjoyed financial planning, which is dedicated to dumping data into software programs to produce crisp conclusions.  (Science)

I’ve also enjoyed the world of economics and investing, where thinking-wide amid contrasting theories is so critical.  (Art)

As for memory-work, I’m proud to have completed a course in counseling by the National Social Security Advisor (NSSA), which is the “gold standard” in Social Security education  (see www.premiernssa ).  It was harder than expected and more B-O-R-I-N-G than expected.  What do you expect from memory-work?  Lots of memory-work!!  Although my memory-bank has a headache today, I’m still very glad I took the course.

I think most financial planners and economists consider themselves “above” mere memory-work.  (Some of us still do!)  But, there is so much about Social Security that financial planning clients need to hear from their planners.  Plus, the current and future economic impact of Social Security is important, especially with the glacial movement of obvious changes.  I have no regrets for the brain-damage of this training and wish there were more brain-damaged financial planners out there.

My first take-away from the course was that the Social Security has been a hugely successful welfare program, reducing the poverty rate among Seniors from over 50% in 1935 to less than 9.5% today.   Also, the trust fund is in better financial shape than most people realize.  In fact, it experienced a positive cash flow in 2019 (the latest year with data), although it is probably turning negative now.  Assuming the negative cash flow continues, benefits will have to decrease at some point, probably about 2035.  Obviously, the sooner the needed changes are made, the less traumatic they will be.

My second take-away was a surprise.  The Social Security Administration cannot guide a new enrollee with the many, many important decisions.  Those employees are mere order-takers.  After taking this course, I can understand why — it is just too complicated, requiring too many decisions and far, far too much personal information.  I came away with an almost missionary-zeal to help people avoid bad decisions with permanent consequences.

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