When the Right Pension Fails

What happens when we do everything we are taught right and are punished for it?


My dad with “Boots”, a lion we raised from the Portland Zoo. (Circa 1955).

Raising lions and tigers at our home taught me some lessons.  These incredible felines were wonderful pets, warm and loving… unless at meal time you stuck your hand between them and their food.  They taught me the law of the jungle at an early age.

Perhaps this is why I often asked myself what it was like for loyal Soviets, who believed and acted upon everything taught by the State, until the Soviet Union failed.  Imagine how they felt when they received the message… “State to public…  everything we taught you was wrong.  You are broke.  Sorry.”

Those Soviets must have felt betrayed, as I did the first time my beloved pet ripped my hand to  shreds while it hovered too near the food bowel.  A lot of Americans are feeling the same way, especially in Illinois.

A Wall Street Journal article “Illinois attorney general files motion to suspend state workers pay” says:

CHICAGO—Illinois lawmakers are again under pressure to solve their budget crisis after the state’s attorney general filed a motion that would effectively suspend all state workers’ pay until a budget is in place.

Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a motion in St. Clair County, Ill., Circuit Court on Thursday requesting a judge end an order given last year that allowed employees to be paid despite the state not having a budget.

Bruce Rauner, Illinois’s Republican governor, and the state’s Democratic legislature failed to agree on a budget last year, and they have been deadlocked on a new spending plan ever since.  No state had gone without a budget for over a year since the Great Depression until Illinois.  The state is currently about $11 billion behind on paying its bills, according to the Illinois comptroller’s office.  Illinois already has the lowest credit rating among U.S. states and a large unfunded pension liability.

Yet there are places in America where pension promises are shakier than in Illinois.

Take Portland, Oregon as an example.

My dad was a victim of the 1930s recession so job security was his number one priority.   When he left the navy after WWII he went to work for the City of Portland.  A steady job and good pension were his main concerns.  Fortunately he also loved his job as zookeeper at the Portland Zoo and worked his way up the ladder to become Associate Director there.

Yet when the city turned over the zoo to the Zoological Society, he had to either switch employment to the Zoological Society or take a demotion and remain working for the city.   He did not think twice and gave up job satisfaction for pension benefits.  He chose to work in the city parks and left his beloved career.  He passed shortly after, at an early age.  This was the right financial choice for my mom who has received great pension benefits for over three decades (she is now 93).

However she may be among the last to have pension promises kept.  The City of Portland’s pension is under enormous stress.  In 2013 its funding position was worse than the City of Chicago so it’s possible that the generation after my mom won’t be given anywhere near what was promised.

Businesses, cities, states and the Feds all made pension promises that cannot be kept.  Simultaneously, the government and society as a whole created an educational system that left the majority of the population believing those promises.

Politicians found it expedient to make promises that future generations would have to pay.   Now the future is here.  The promises cannot be kept.  We are seeing the results of this mess unfold now.

We Can Have Security and Pursue our Passions

Most people bought into the unsustainable promises of generations past.  I did not.  Maybe Boots and Rajah and the dozen or so lions and tigers we raised made me aware that the law of the jungle was always just below the veneer.  Whatever the roots, my first book, “Passport to International Profit” published in the 1970s warned of the “Soil Defense Syndrome”, the “Duck in the Pond Problem” and showed ways to become a “One Man Multinational”.  In short,  the book showed how to live anywhere, but earn everywhere and how to create and manage one’s own income and pension.

We have dedicated our publications to these ideals of true freedom and independence since.  Our mantra for three decades has been “Turn Your Passion into Profit” and this is why I have made a special offer from now to Valentine’s Day for our “Live Anywhere – Earn Everywhere Program” to help you be financially right and fulfilled when the pensions and promises fail.


(1)  www.wsj.com/articles/illinois-attorney-general-files-motion-to-suspend-state-workers-pay-1485538584?mod=itp&mod=djemITP_h

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