Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Us Against Them?

Perhaps I'm just over-reacting, but it really does seem like the world is doing its utmost best to drive wedges between everyone. First off all, there's a column in USAToday about how in filing for Social Security early, men may likely reduce the amount of benefits their spouse receives after he dies.

In the surface, this column is good information. Not everyone knows that when one spouse dies the other gets to choose between their own social security benefit or their deceased spouse's. If both are recieving benefits then the death of one means the loss of income, period.

But one would certainly hope the couple would calculate before the man retires early whether she can live on his reduced benefits when he dies. It's just common sense, and any responsible male should check this out first.

The problem is how the article pitches this advice:
Here's some advice for married men who will turn 62 this year: If you want to make up for all the times you came home with beer on your breath, left your socks on the bathroom floor or gave your wife a DustBuster for Valentine's Day, hold off on filing for your Social Security benefits.

So according to USAToday we should put off retirement, but NOT because we've run the numbers and realized it may not go well for our spouse if we do. We should keep working longer because we owe it to her! Why? Because she's had to put up with our being dorks for most of her life.

Pardon me if I grouse a little at this biased characterization.

Then there was this lovely (actually, there wasn't much love in it) ad for soy milk in a magazine my wife received yesterday. A woman is being teased by her husband about why she drinks the stuff (I've tried that brand before, by the way, and it tastes like liquid Rice Krispy Treats--and that's not a good thing). She responds that she drinks it because "I plan to date a lot when he's gone."

Let me start by saying that if my wife wants to date after I die, that's fine with me. But the insinuation in this ad is that this woman almost can't wait for her husband to drop dead and free her to go find out what she's been missing. You can almost hear the female chorus of hoots and "You GO, Grrrrl!" the ad is trying to evoke.

Put these two items together and what do we have? Women who want their husbands to spend less of their remaining years having fun so that they can have more money to go out and live it up once the ol' kill-joy croaks.

Now I'm willing to bet that most women are not that mercenary. At most they want to make sure they and their husbands have sufficient money and health to enjoy together in their retired years. They'd prefer to be with their spouses, but won't have any compunction against seeking whatever makes them happy if/when he dies first. That may include dating.

It used to be the joke among men that wives were "balls and chains" who "think we're made of money". Now it seems to be the women who have decided the men are the "ball and chain", that they're indeed made "made of money", and that the only reason to stay married is to get as much of that money as they can. I hope it's a joke. I really do.

Contrast that with my wife. We work together to manage the finances so that we hopefully won't even need to rely on Social Security in the first place. I believe if we ever reach the point where I can afford to retire she'll be the first one encouraging me to do so. And while we haven't discussed retirement plans much yet, I'm fairly sure her plans include me.

On the other hand, I don't come home with beer on my breath (garlic from business lunches is another story) and I don't leave my clothes on the floor in the first place. I have been known to give her small appliances or cookware as gifts, but most of the time they're on her list of suggestions.

So maybe USAToday and 8th Continent really know what they're talking about, and I'm just an anomaly. At any rate, I'm not going to let them turn me against my wife, thank you very much.

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