Two Practical Matters- Social Security and Health Care Insurance

by Mayuri on June 13, 2011


The Turning Tide

One fantasy that is becoming dangerous to embrace is the illusion of security in the form of Social Security in the United States. I have heard many people say that they have no savings or investments, and instead intend to rely on these monthly payouts to support them in their old age. It has recently been announced that Social Security has become permanently cash-flow negative. In other words, more will be paid out yearly in benefits than will be taken in as revenue.

Some people are shocked when I tell them that there is actually no “trust fund” sitting there that they and everyone else who has been working (or their employers) have been paying into for all these years. Rather, the government has always been “borrowing” those funds. What’s more surprising to these people is that the total amount that “should” be in there isn’t even a legal debt. It is a government liability that is backed by a moral obligation only. It could be eliminated by political will, which is a significant probability given the current economic situation. If it is allowed to wind down, many who are paying into it today, and have been for all their working lives, won’t see any benefits. Social Security cannot survive without raising taxes and/or decreasing benefits. So when creating your financial plan, it is better to know now rather than later that you cannot rely on it as a source of income.

Other countries do have national funds available for when their citizens reach old age. The Norwegian government, for example, has funded its pool of retirement money partly through the nationalization of the oil industry because recognized that the national resources of the country belongs to all the country’s citizens. So it is important to know the actual situation of government-supported social security where you live.

Corporate pensions are also becoming less common, and smaller organizations that, under better economic conditions, would gladly fund retirement are less and less able to do so. So it seems that within our current economic reality, the movement is toward each of us being responsible for our own financial well-being and retirement.

A large percentage of people in the First World—regardless of income level—have been financing their lives through debt instead of through savings. Economic circumstances are dictating that we can no longer afford the delusion that we can indefinitely support ourselves on other people’s money. The chickens are coming home to roost, and we all need to wake up to this very real change that is happening. The truth  is  becoming more and more apparent in our world—that the only option is to finance ourselves with our savings.

Health Care Insurance

If you live in a country without universal or government-supported health care, such as the United States, then you might include health care insurance in the bottom tier of  the pyramid. You may never use it, and so it may seem as though you’re throwing money away on premiums. However, if you get sick, you will avoid bankrupting yourself. So you could consider health insurance to be an investment in human capital. For a year, I was a hospice volunteer in a hospital for indigents in San Francisco. I was stunned to see how many people there had not been, as you might expect, living on the streets, but rather had had ordinary lives before medical costs had siphoned off all their savings. This is not by any means unusual; tragically, it is becoming more common as medical costs rise out of sight. In fact, research conducted at Harvard University has shown that medical costs have contributed to more than half of all bankruptcies in the United States. That may not seem so surprising to you, but what might is that half of those bankruptcies are people who had health care insurance.

If you wish to read more on medical costs and bankruptcy, there is an article in Bloomberg Businessweek that you might like to read.


Being in the world and not of it.

You might be asking yourself “What dos this have to do with money and spirituality”.When we look at this matter from the perspective of how we behave with our money day in and day out, we all faced with the same paradox: How can we live in the now where our Beingness is and, at the same time, meet the practical needs of a life lived in manifest reality? Learning how to do that is part of the mystery of being human, part of the mystery of our dual nature as spirit in matter. As we have seen, becoming more aware in our relationship to money has its foundation in our overall aim to integrate Beingness into our lives at every level.


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