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Letters: Aug. 19, 2002

8 minute read

Will You Ever Be Able to Retire?

“I may no longer be able to retire early, as I had planned, but in November my vote may help my local politicians do so.” BRIAN JUDGE Landisburg, Pa. As uncertain as our retirement futures appear [BUSINESS, July 29], I am deeply bothered by the financial wastefulness and frivolousness of American households, as illustrated by Maria and George Rudd in your article. You noted that together the Rudds, who are in their 60s, earn $280,000 but have a credit-card debt of $45,000 and only $40,000 in savings and investments. The Rudds are only one example of the personal and corporate shortsightedness that has plunged our country into its present financial quagmire. What ever happened to “A penny saved is a penny earned”? BRIAN FURIO New Freedom, Pa.

Don’t tell me I’ll have to work into my 70s! I’ve been at it since I was 14, and I can’t wait for that drink with the umbrella in it. JOHN M. FLANAGAN Colma, Calif.

I always said I’d never be happy fully retired, and now, at age 62, I must convince myself that I truly believe it. At least there’s one bit of good news following the stock-market implosion: the idea of privatizing Social Security and turning over investment choices to individuals and their advisers is forever put to rest. PHIL LEECH Spring Lake, Mich.

Far too many people live day to day simply counting on faith, trust and luck, without being very sure of their financial security for the next week, month or year, let alone for the balance of their lives. Worrying about voluntary retirement, full of leisure time, is a luxury many people simply do not have. JEROLD G. BUHRMAN Smithsburg, Md.

Your article probably scared a lot of ordinary people considering retirement who don’t have the $300,000 to $1 million you seem to think they need. A modest retirement is possible without working till 80. Not all of us need or want to live in a mansion, own a yacht and sail about the Greek islands. I’ve been retired for five years and am quite happy. I keep an eye on how much I spend every month and try to stay out of debt. The simple life can also be the good life. JOEL LAYNE Cascade, Idaho

My parents have a fine retirement, relying on Social Security and a company pension without a 401(k) or playing the stock market. How do they do it? They have lived within their means in the same house for 40 years, and they save up for their purchases and vacations. RICHARD MILLER Idaho Falls, Idaho

I am 72 years old. I deal with an aching and arthritic body and yearly increases in the cost of living without increases in salary. I also must deal with continuing to work beyond a planned retirement. I could even deal with saying “You want fries with that?”, but all I really want to do is scream, “Stop! Let me off to enjoy life.” ROZ LINDSTROM Pasadena, Calif.

–Readers were especially taken by the cover illustration of a wrinkled carhop on roller skates. “I loved your saucy cover girl Anna,” wrote a New Jerseyan. “Those of us who remember the era of drive-ins all had a good laugh. I hope I’m in good enough shape to roller-skate at my retirement job.” A Utah reader admitted, “I laughed as hard as the kid in the car until I realized that could be me in 25 years if we don’t get the economy cooking again.” And a Coloradan took the whole scene to heart: “That kid might laugh, but you can bet that Anna would treat you with respect, get your order right and give you correct change–without the help of a calculator or a cash register. Few teens or 20-year-olds can match that good old work ethic!”

Crude, Rude and Rated PG

Richard Corliss was right on the money in criticizing the PG-13 rating that was given to the latest gross-out comedy, Austin Powers in Goldmember [ESSAY, July 29]. The great majority of PG and PG-13 movies marketed to children contain some of the most inappropriate and harmful sexual innuendo and bathroom humor. Kids in the 10-to-15 age group shun the animated fare of early childhood and want desperately to see the latest and greatest gross-fest targeted at them. I will probably see this Austin Powers movie, but I can assure you my 15-year-old won’t. Parents, it’s Saturday afternoon–do you know what movie your children are seeing? MONA JENNINGS Los Osos, Calif.

Those of us with a sense of humor enjoy the pretentious and somewhat condescending highbrow humor of Woody Allen’s films, but we are also able to laugh at the visceral, self-mocking, scatological fun of Mike Myers’ Austin Powers movies. Surely fart jokes will not be the downfall of Western society or the ruination of modern cinema. They are just funny: a guilty pleasure that could be free of guilt if self-important critics weren’t so eager to heap shame on people who can still laugh. DAVID MASSEY Charlotte, N.C.

A Stunning Arsenal

In reading your report on the Pentagon’s development of nonlethal weapons that hurt but don’t kill [TECHNOLOGY, July 29], I was amazed that such advanced weaponry is being developed and that human-rights activists are alarmed by weapons that could save lives instead of ending them. If the new weapons have the potential for abuse, the U.S. should share the technology only with countries similar to it in policy and idealism. You quoted a human-rights activist as saying “What the U.S. invents today… the torturing states will deploy tomorrow.” But why would they spend money on such sophisticated weapons when they can obtain the same effect with the low-tech means they already have? NICK PAGE Cooper City, Fla.

I was pleased to see fresh advancements in law-enforcement technology. My enthusiasm, however, waned when it occurred to me that the moment this new technology is used and law enforcement begins to get the upper hand, civil-liberties groups will file some frivolous legal action on the grounds that the lawbreakers’ rights have been violated. THOMAS R. ATKINS Sherman Oaks, Calif.

Rubbed the Wrong Way?

As a licensed massage therapist, I appreciate TIME’s spreading the word about the benefits of massage [SOCIETY, July 29]. I was disappointed, however, that you couldn’t break away from the old stereotype that massage is synonymous with sex. Legitimate massage therapists aren’t doing this for sexual kicks. To call the four-handed massage the “menage a trois” of back rubs is innuendo that mistakenly links sex and massage. I hope your readers pay more attention to the educational aspects of your report than the leering cheap shots. TAMARA BRAITHWAITE Memphis, Tenn.

You called massage the “feel-good equivalent” of getting a pedicure. It is much more than a feel-good technique; it is truly therapeutic. I am an older person who plays tennis four times a week, and I get a massage every two weeks. As we age, the circulatory system becomes less efficient. Getting a massage is preventive medicine and keeps me in good condition on the tennis courts. MARION KYSER Daytona Beach Shores, Fla.

Wall Street’s Verdict

CEOs have plundered their companies, received huge payouts for mediocre or bad performance and left shareholders and employees with the mess [ECONOMY, July 29]. CEOs and other executives must not be allowed to write their own compensation and separation packages. Executives must not enrich themselves by making investors and employees poor. WILLIAM KENNETH WOODARD Louisville, Ky.

With its fudging CEOs and murky auditors, corporate America has managed to do what al-Qaeda failed to do last fall. It has aroused fear, uncertainty and panic among Americans. Unsure when the next act of corporate terrorism will occur and helpless as markets and savings fall to lows not seen in years, most Americans no longer know whom to trust or how to invest. Forget Osama bin Laden. For now, the enemies are indeed within our borders. We need to root them out and prosecute them. BRUCE SHIVLEY Oxford, Wis.

What is going on is a national disgrace! Corporate executives who share the responsibility for their company’s decline should also share the financial suffering of the little guy. VICTOR M. RUIZ Cerritos, Calif.

The entire global economy seems to be led by a stock market whose value is based on hype and hysteria. The economy spins out of control time and time again. Profits slump, companies cut costs and sack workers, and a system that supposedly brings prosperity instead leads to ever richer CEOs while thousands of employees are out of a job. Consumer confidence falls, and things get even worse. Isn’t this an insane way to run an economic system? CHAMINDA JAYANETTI Dartford, England


Our report “Summer Of Mistrust,” on the public’s lack of confidence in U.S. corporations [NATION, July 22], incorrectly said that $2 billion had disappeared from Xerox’s revenues. We should have said Xerox overstated its pretax income by $1.4 billion over the past five years.

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