Mr. Information

        One of the roles a steward often plays is the job of Mr. Information. People have all kinds of questions and it’s often up to us to have all kinds of answers. Most people want answers to immediate problems, like how many 8-hour requests does the center allow off each day? Are option days given by seniority or first come, first serve? What do I do about excessive hours? I don’t mind being the Answer Man, it’s kind of fun sometimes.
The Answer Man        But sometimes I give people advice on questions they haven’t ask. Especially new hires. New hires are often so engrossed in trying to get the job done that they can’t see the forest for the trees. One area where new hires often need some friendly advice from the old steward is in the area of retirement planning.
        Now I’m not a financial advisor and I don’t claim to be. In fact, those are the first words out of my mouth. “I’m not a financial advisor, but…”. The most important part of financial planning is to start as soon as you can. Like now. The company offers a payroll deduction for the Teamster-UPS 401(k). It amazes me that only about half of the full timers take advantage of this easy way to save. It’s simple and painless and 20 years up the road you will kick yourself in the ass if you didn’t bother signing up for it. That’s always the first thing I tell newbies. Then I direct them to the resources they can use to get signed up. Every steward should know how to get a new hire signed up with the 401(k).Retirement        
        The next thing I talk to people about is the pension. I encourage them to go online and read everything they can about pensions and pension legislation. I give them the addresses of a few pension activist websites that allow people to keep abreast of and participate in pension reform. I never say it, but secretly I fear that many of the drivers starting out today will not have a fixed amount pension like we know when they reach retirement age. By fixed amount, I mean things like $2500 at 25 and out. That’s why it’s so important to start saving from day one as a driver.
        Some people look at me like I’m crazy because they think they will always have enough money or enough time to save some money for retirement. Those people need a little wake up call. PBS did a story on Frontline that is available online to watch from the comfort of your own computer chair. It’s called “Can You Afford to Retire?” You can watch the whole 60 minute show online and believe me, it’s scarier than any Stephen King novel. They make the case that the reality of the situation is that pensions are disappearing and most of us will outlive our savings.
        Every steward should watch this show. People count on us to give them advice and if we aren’t scared shitless by what the future holds financially, then we probably aren’t giving them the right answers. So strap yourself into your computer chair and start the movie.
Believe me, this ain’t no love story.

“Can You Afford to Retire?”