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Dear Connor: People with holes in their pockets

By Linda Grist Cunningham, editor and proprietor

Linda Grist Cunningham is editor and proprietor of Key West Island News and KeyWestWatch Media LLC. She and her husband, a park ranger at Fort Zach, live in Key West with their Cat 5s.


We’re all (mostly) going to be some sort of have-nots


I started saving for retirement back in 1982 when it occurred to me that (1) the newspapers I worked for didn’t have pensions; and (2) there were so many kids born in 1950 that there would not be enough Social Security money when they turned 65.

That created a bunch of family squabbles. Ask your Dada sometime about all the times I told him and Ghee “nope, we can’t buy that because we’re saving for retirement.”

But even with the savings, if it weren’t for Social Security and Medicare, it would be slim pickings right now. We’re the lucky ones. We’re still working professionally. We saved. Most Americans didn’t, haven’t, couldn’t and aren’t. They’ve chosen to spend it now and worry later.

As many more are living hand-to-mouth and couldn’t save even if they wanted to. For them, it’s a choice between going hungry and filling a prescription.

No matter the whys and wherefores, we are right where I figured in 1982 we’d be around the time I retired. There’s not enough money to go around, to fulfill the promises made by Social Security, Medicare and state and federal pension systems.

We can blow glitter and rainbows all over those facts, but it won’t change them.

So, yeah, those people who voted for Trump because they were angry at how they’ve lost the American Dream are just about to be joined by Clinton supporters who are realizing pretty quick that cuts in Medicare and Social Security benefits (not to mention private, state and federal pension plans) are just around the corner.

Except for those mega-rich one-percenters for whom I have not the slightest affinity, the rest of us are going to be taking those cuts on the chin and in the pocketbook — despite political promises to the contrary.

Our numbers are not sustainable. There are too many expecting promises to be fulfilled and not enough paying into the system via taxes of all stripes.

If we go ahead with tax cuts, we’re going to have to cut services. Heck, even if we raise taxes, we can’t make up the difference. We won’t see enough new, high-paying jobs to ensure a net increase in government revenue to pay out those promised benefits.

I did a two-decade stint as a corporate spreadsheet editor. I spent more time with spreadsheets than with journalism. I learned one thing: If you don’t increase income a lot, you have to cut expenses a lot.

It’s almost too late to weave a personal safety net for the coming financial winter, though we should do the best we can. Put aside every nickel you can. Eat at home. Make your own coffee. Use the library instead of Amazon. Keep the car two years longer. Make do with the stuff you already have. Save and keep the savings invested conservatively.

Just as we do in Key West when a hurricane is headed our way, keep some cash handy in case everything goes plumb crazy. Know what you’ll do in an emergency.

And, don’t obsess. We cannot stop the coming transition. We can prepare — physically, mentally and emotionally as we get on with the business of living each day to its fullest.

There’s going to be lots of drama over the next five to 10 years about how to manage revenue and expenses. Count on that. But, it will all come down to this before we make our way through the final generational turning: We don’t have enough money and cuts will be made.

How we make them determines whether we are good people or people with holes in our souls.

  • If we are good people, we will first take care of those who cannot care well for themselves. Children, elderly, those with disabilities, those who need a helping hand on their ways to helping themselves.
  • If we are good people and we do not have enough to go around in the fullest measures, we will ration our gifts so that all get a measure that will sustain and nurture even if not enough to go hog wild and pig crazy as your great-grandfather used to say.
  • If we are good people, we will gracefully accept that from those to whom much has been given — and who have earned much — much will be expected. So, yep, the more one has, the more one will share.
  • If we are good people, we will give and share without checking credentials, without standing on Old Testament sanctimony. A person in need is a person in need.
  • If we are good people, we will give without requiring thanks. We will share without asking for applause. We will do the right things because they are the right things to do, because we feel guilty, because mother or the boss told us to, or because it’s good for business — but we will do the right things.

If we are people with holes in our souls, well, we will go to hell and take this country with us.

“Dear Connor” is a collection of essays written for Connor Cunningham by his grandmother, Linda Grist Cunningham. I began writing these as my construct for making sense of the unraveling American community. Connor may never read them, nor might others; but they’ll help me distill solutions from the cacophony that passes for discourse in final crisis generational turning of America.  


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