I started socking away money in an IRA a long time ago, when I was still single and had little need of cash. These accounts grew steadily—for I soon had more than one. About ten years ago, I began to be concerned over our out-of-control debt. (Little did I know that Obama’s administration would make Bush’s look like the Ebenezer Scrooge School of Economics.) I shifted one retirement account to gold. The organization that I patronized was Lear Capital. Still later, a Lear representative—some aging California supermodel type with accounting skills, a keen interest in meditation, and the silkiest voice you ever heard—convinced me to shift again, this time from gold to silver. Probably not a bad move in itself. The problems started to come when Lear sold or transferred or otherwise handed off my account to some banking operation called Equity Trust. This outfit began to ring me up for whopping yearly maintenance fees. I also, by this time (just a couple of years ago), began to fret deeply about the physical presence of my metal in other hands. If things got really bad, as per a half a dozen scenarios (Cyprus-style haircut, an EMP, etc.), I might end up with absolutely nothing. I had already been stupid enough to allow the maintenance fees to be assessed from my account assets—meaning that Equity was able to pocket some of my silver, purchased by me precisely because it was currently very undervalued, and leave my hoard a little leaner. Stupid, yes… but I was preoccupied with a million other things, like most ordinary people.
Having reached an age that allowed me to cash in my chips with impunity, I demanded that my silver be sent to me. Done. No problem. I was delighted with myself… until I received a tax document the other day informing me that the account’s closing value was being added on to my 2016 taxable income. No one had alerted me that this would happen. Again, as a naïve Ordinary Joe, I had supposed that the “age without penalty” allowed me access to my holdings free and clear. I’m happy to have my silver, for nothing short of an IRS SWAT team invoking Civil Assets Forfeiture is going to rip it off now (hmm… something else to keep me awake at nights); but I find that I understand the “charity” of the Investment Retirement Account less than ever. So I avoided paying tax on the money several decades ago, when I could best have afforded to… and now that I’m on the verge of retirement, I have to pay as if I’d been given a handsome commission just last year to film a Geico commercial. Or I could have simply kept the account where it was and drawn a few monthly pennies from it, leaving my money in constant jeopardy of the banking industry’s mysterious whimsy and the political system’s machinations.
I’m still exploring a couple of cards in my hand. However this all turns out, I stand more convinced than ever that we can trust no one in public life—and by that I mean the private sector as well as the government. We’re supposed to tear up at the raising of the Flag… but I no longer know what it represents. I can’t think of a single thing that any level of government does for me. Our garbage pick-up is irregular, our mail arrives in peculiar weekly spates rather than at daily intervals, our power grid sits almost entirely unsecured (unlike China’s and Russia’s), an officer might reach my house in about an hour if I dial 911 (I’ve had that experience), and a pandillero who has strayed into our country won’t even be sent home if he blows my head off. (I won’t mention the IRS’s SWAT team again.) It’s all pretty medieval. You try to raise a few potatoes and turnips, you cough up some chickens and a hog when the overload demands rent, and you march on the front line with your pitchfork when “recruited” to defend the realm.
Screw that. I’m glad I have my silver, though not much of it is left and I’m having to pay again to keep it in a safe place. It wouldn’t buy a new car… maybe a really nice TV. It probably wouldn’t cover my funeral, as the law requires funerals to be arranged (thanks to generous campaign contributions from the Undertaking Industry). Stumbling onto such realizations as you grow old is such a Big Empty… a whole life passed in being a pawn, a chump, a mark. That’s how I feel.
Except that I also believe in a higher justice. That’s why I wouldn’t trade places with Lear’s or Goldline’s operatives, or with our elected scammers, or with the IRS’s goons. One day all of us will have to answer for everything we ever did, and they who showed no mercy will receive none.