On art and the raving of lunatics…

Taylor Swift has apparently made a video.

The right wing is charging her with being overtly political. The left wing is accusing her of cashing in on the latest cause.

Maybe they’re both right… but they’re most assuredly both wrong too.

I’m old enough to remember the early days of music videos. The good ones were always edgy or outrageous. The best of them were incredibly controversial.

It seems to me that art in its many forms probably should be controversial. It should make you think. It should take your breath away. It should drive you to consider uncomfortable ideas.

Here’s the important part of today’s message, though… if people saying words makes you too uncomfortable, you always have the option of changing the station. In all my many years of life, no one has ever walked up to me, forced my eyes or ears open, and made me an unwilling participant in art. The artist chooses what to do, and I choose whether I’m going to engage with it.

Having a hissy fit because you don’t like a video makes you look and sound like a complete raving lunatic and guarantees that I can’t take you seriously as an adult human being.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

  1. Facebook. For good or bad, Facebook loves showing you memories every day. I keep noticing that there are posts from years ago that indicate having two or three comments, but in some cases only one of those comments may be showing. I’m assuming that means these  comments were made by someone long ago and far away who has either left Facebook or has otherwise exited my online circle of friends… which begs the question of why Facebook is even bothering showing you a notification of something I can’t actually see?
  2. Thanksgiving apologists. Some sections of social media will spend this week telling us that celebrating Thanksgiving is wrong and a mark of “privilege.” To those people, I will only offer words of wisdom from Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s very own Spike, who reminded us with fair historical accuracy that, “I just can’t take all this mamby-pamby boo-hooing about the bloody Indians… You won. All right? You came in and you killed them and you took their land. That’s what conquering nations do. It’s what Caesar did, and he’s not goin’ around saying, ‘I came, I conquered, I felt really bad about it.’ The history of the world is not people making friends. You had better weapons, and you massacred them. End of story.” If you’re looking for someone to apologize for Thanksgiving and for American history writ large, boy did you come to the wrong place. 
  3. Social media experts. According to “experts” social media makes us sad, or angry, depressed, homicidal, suicidal, or any of a hundred other descriptors. The thing is social media doesn’t really “make” us any of those things. We humans, with our fancy pants free will, allow social media to have an impact on what we think or feel. If you’re using a completely optional product that causes you so much angst, it feels a little bit like a good time to exercise a little self determination instead of casting around for something or someone else to blame for your own problems. Then again, personal responsibility is never going to be cool or sexy, so just go ahead and carry on blaming social media I guess.

By 35…

I’d never really thought of MarketWatch as a leading newsmaker, but after their social media post noting that “By 35, you should have twice your salary saved, according to retirement experts.” They’ve experienced their 15 minutes and then some.

The thing is, if you’re contemplating what it takes to achieve a “normal” retirement at the “normal” age in the “normal” way, their post isn’t broadly off the mark. Their point, beyond being something that seems to beggar belief to millennials, is that if you ever want to retire in the traditional sense of the word, you need to plan for it… and more importantly you need to save for it. Only you know for sure what right number – 2x, 10x, or 50x your annual salary invested – is going to meet your needs at any given time along your glide path.

“But,” you say, “Everything is so expensive. I have loans, and bills, and kids, and a master’s degree in advanced basketweaving. I can’t save anything.”

That’s fine. In many cases those expenses came along with decisions you made. That means you placed a premium on those other options rather than building a stable platform for retirement. It means you’re going to have to work past the traditional retirement age or contemplate a significant lifestyle change in order to realign you financial priorities. In some cases, especially for those who decide the whole long-range planning things is just too hard, you may have to accept that there’s a good chance you’re going to die in harness.

I got my first “grown up” job at 22. Making about $30K a year, paying rent, a car note, household bills, buying groceries, and all the other expenses that come along with being a grown ass man. It sucked. Money was always short, but before I saw a nickel of it in my checking account $25 of every check that first year went into my retirement account. Let me be clear on this – to me, back then, $50 was a shit ton of money to “do without” from month to month. There were a lot of things I could have spent that cash on to make life a little more civilized and comfortable that first year. The thing is, even at 22, when I still believed I was on my way to a long and fulfilling teaching career, I knew I didn’t want to still be touching America’s youth when I was in my 70s.

Here’s the kicker: Life isn’t easy. It’s full of hard decision, medical emergencies, and events that don’t work out quite as you had planned. Take it from a guy who changed careers, lived through five regional or cross country moves in 18 years to follow better opportunities, and then took a bath on a house he bought at the height of the real estate bubble. I know this shit isn’t easy.

There are precisely 300 million websites out there that can help you develop the mindset and skills that make retirement a thing that’s possible. But it means you’re going to have to do more hard work and educate yourself on the topics and the tools available. If you’re sitting around waiting for someone to do it for you while shitposting on Twitter, well, I guess you’re right – retirement is definitely never going to happen.