PATSY R. BRUMFIELD: What a time to be near retirement

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

Timing, they say, is everything. Quite some time ago, my employer kindly scheduled a conference with our 401(k) manager. The fellow also will be available for one-on-one chats with folks who feel like they need more personal advice about retirement.
The poor guy is scheduled here the middle of next week.
Ah, that’s timing.
Of course, this person is coming into our shop as the world stares at another horrendous stock market debacle caused by the various uncertainties associated with the global debt and the U.S. credit rating downgrade by Samp&P.
Since last week, I suspect, many of our 401(k)s took a terrible beating – in other words, those of us about five years out from retirement are living in fear that what we thought we had is now less than what we had.
We are hoping that our little nest eggs, which were just recovering from the horrors of two years ago, weren’t swept into the black abyss of financial chaos.
Of course, the difficulty of all this comes because we are generally “in charge” of making intelligent decisions about how our portfolios are diversified.
Should I be aggressive with the possibility of big gains and likewise big losses? Should I do the opposite and hunker down for meager returns, still vulnerable to losses?
And what about gold?
It seems like a good time just to cash in and put it under the mattress. But that would require a massive sell-off, which means you never get out what you put in.
I really hate this.
If I had intended to professionally manage investments, I would have become an investment adviser.
Oh, I realize our plans’ administrator makes some key decisions, way in the recesses of Investment Land.
But still, it’s a lot to ask of us folks whose brains aren’t made that way.
It reminds me of those people in Congress who want to turn our Social Security accounts over to each of us to make our own investment decisions.
I know that perhaps 1 percent of our population probably could handle this new responsibility.
But the other 99 percent would be circling the vortex, like it feels right now.
When this mess is over, many of us are just going to have to establish small communes and bring our real friends together to share whatever is left.
We’ll pool our little resources and whatever Social Security still exists and pray we can find a nice place with a view.
Then we’ll just sit there and remember, if we can, the days when we didn’t worry about this stuff.
I’m hopeful we’ll have something else to do than stew about what a mess our elected officials made with our futures.
There’s gotta be a book or reality show in there somewhere.
Patsy R. Brumfield writes a Thursday column. She usually is more cheerful than this. Contact her at patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com.