If only this could be a long, ongoing series, right? Not until I get my odd job business of the ground (kidding?).
I finally called up the gatekeeper (or crypt keeper–I leave the pleasure of interpretation up to you) of my investment portfolio, Fidelity. I have had serious questions about what will happen to my 401k and pension if I decide to leave my employer next year. Can I use this money to fund my trip? What expectations should I have about being taxed to high hell? When should I get the ball rolling? This is only the next, not the first, installment in my chronicle of financial neuroses for our trip. You’ll probably never get the key to unlock your stockbroker’s diary (or an admission of guilt anyway), so you might as well read a layman’s lament, right?
Lament be damned, all my queries were answered in an almost mechanical and sterile way by the representative on the phone. I’m sure that in these times, there is no shortage of questions about how to get your money out (in a panic, or not). So, it came as a great relief to learn that my money was coming to me, whether depleted by the market or not, whenever I make the choice to formally sever my ties with my employer.
Drat. There’s always a catch, huh. My initial plan was to take a leave of absence for 6 months (maximum allowed) so I could retain my health benefits and some semblance of employment should I choose to return. But when I started to look at the numbers (and COBRA), I shifted my point of view…Not to mention the staggering prices of some European cities warranting a second glance at cashing in my portfolio.
Since January, I have opted to stop funding my 401k and keep the money in a savings account. Now I have a chunk of change that shifts every time my company is lambasted by the press. If you only knew, you’d be uneasy about what to do, too.
After a few minutes of explaining the legal and tax ramifications, we got into numbers. Every statement, of course, was laced with “this is merely a quote, for instability in interest rates, as you know, is fairly common…” yada, yada. But things started to look up. My pension, as it seems, is now fully-vested (w00t), which means that apart from giving the government 20% of it, a nice chunk of change will come my way. Enough, in fact (based on my preliminary budgeting), that the pension alone may be all that fuels the first 3 months of our trip…”markets pending,” of course.
So, quit the job or not? I can tell you, there will be no surprise ending or existential crisis. After I hung up with the rep, I logged online to take another look at my portfolio balance.
Sitting like a pathetic sack of rotted potatoes, neglected and stinky, the pie chart representing my 401k (and future) beckoned to me:
Him: “Come on, man, think of all the good times we’ve had together.”
Me: “I don’t recall those times, actually. You look red and flushed. Like, really red.”
He shifted and writhed a little, trying to hide the thick redness of his decreased lines, sagging like the droopy jowls of a hound dog.
Him: “It’s not as bad as it looks. It’ll get better in time, like a fine wine!”
Me: “I prefer $2 wine from the corner store. You’re not winning this one.”
He huffed in protest.
Him: “You’ll regret this!!!!”
Yes, it was really that uneventful.
I looked around my dusty, dimly lit cubicle nightmare and thought about my job and the investments when the words of a one Biggie Smalls came to mind…
Me: “If I go, you gotta go.”
Sorry little guy, looks like your ass wrote a check that will be cashed.