One of my favorite country singers and songwriters, Merle Haggard, wrote one of my favorite songs, Big City with lyrics that are much more meaningful to me in 2015 than they were in 1981 when I first heard them.
“Gimme all I’ve got coming to me…
and keep your retirement
and your so-called Social Security.
Big City, turn me loose and set me free.”
Yep, in 1981 I was thirty-five years old and the owner of a very small CPA firm that had a growing clientele and low overhead. How small was very small? That would be one person: me. I had been working full-time since 1967 and was in robust health – full of piss and vinegar – and had visions of acquiring great wealth through hard work and perseverance in America, the land of equal opportunity. Retirement? Social Security? Bah, humbug. Irrelevant and unimportant, but I paid my Social Security taxes right along with everyone else.
Fast forward to 2008, the year I turned sixty-two. My robust health became more of a pisser than vinegar, and I was forced to retire much earlier than I had planned – and long before acquiring great wealth. I had worked for forty-one years in a variety of jobs with numbers as their primary common denominator and had made both good and bad career moves in those years. I was moderately successful in the good years and financially challenged in the lean ones.
Frank Sinatra sang about all the good and lean years and all the in-between years, and he could have been talking about my life as an entrepreneur. Of course, he wasn’t, but still…
Regardless of the triumphs and tragedies in my working life, I continued to pay my income taxes and Social Security taxes every year right along with everyone else and at age 62 I became disabled and began to receive my retirement benefits from the Social Security Administration. At the end of each benefit year, the SSA sends me “Important Information” for the next year which typically includes my benefit amount, new rules and regulations, how to contact them if I have questions, Medicare premiums, blah, blah, blah.
At the end of 2013, I noticed a new bullet point:
Benefits for Same-Sex Couples
Due to a Supreme Court decision, we now are able to pay benefits to some
same-sex couples. We encourage people who think they may be eligible to apply now.
It wasn’t a super-sized bullet point or anything like that. As a matter of fact, it was squeezed in between “How to Access my Social Security Online Services” and the “Affordable Care Act.” If you blinked or skipped the info page to only look at “Your New Benefit Amount” which is probably what most people do, you would have missed it. I read it with disbelief and amazement and a sense of immense satisfaction for the couples in places like Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut and California – a few of the eighteen states and District of Columbia where marriage equality was a reality at the end of 2013. The SSA would be making re-calculations on a host of benefits for affected American citizens.
This year, at the end of last week, my “Important Information” arrived from the SSA. Once again, squeezed in between “To Access my Social Security Online Services” and the “Affordable Care Act” was the following:
Benefits for Same-Sex Couples
We now are able to pay benefits to more same-sex couples.
We encourage people to contact us to find out if they or their children are eligible for
benefits or a different benefit amount.
Indeed. “More same-sex couples” refers to the increasing number of states with marriage equality at the end of 2014. The total is up to 35 plus the District of Columbia, and my feelings of disbelief and amazement and immense satisfaction are combined with the joy and exhilaration that comes with residing in the 35th. state, my second home state of South Carolina. Yee Haw – pigs are now flying over the Palmetto State Capitol, and there is a definite chill to the weather in hell these days.
Because my prospects for acquiring great wealth look slimmer than my prospects for acquiring great weight, I’m afraid I can’t sing along with Merle who apparently didn’t want his Social Security. I’m happy to have mine and to be on the receiving end of what I paid into for more than forty years – and even happier to know that my family will be accorded the same respect and fair treatment that every American family deserves.
Thanks Merle, but gimme all I got coming to me including my so-called Social Security, and then Big City, turn me loose and set me free.