A long time ago, I used to work in financial planning. I was really bad at it, in large part because doing menial labor to make rich old white people richer made me want to die. But I did learn a lot. I can discourse intelligently on all sorts of topics most familiar to people who make a lot more money than I do. The best part of that job was that I was, by several inches, the tallest person in the office. I’m not at all tall myself. It was a lovely feeling.

This morning I was wrestling hard against my glitchy computer and trying to keep things church appropriate. An older church member dropped by. He had a question about an upcoming event I’m coordinating. I answered it and politely tried to go back to my work on computer. But the pastor came out of his office to chat with Older Church Member. They stood in my office for the next hour, talking. I’m a bit of a talker myself, so I tried to stem my tide of frustration while waiting on my computer to re-re-re-reboot by chatting along. We talked about the WPA. I love the WPA. Talk of Americans’ evolving saving habits moved the conversation into their own saving habits.

Older Church Member is one of the three richest people I know. He mentioned that he could easily pay for a new car, when he needs one, by pulling earned interest out of his IRA. Sort of a pretentious thing to say, I suppose. But he is a little pretentious. I was tapping away at my glitchy work computer, but I looked up to ask is it a SEP or a standard, if you don’t mind my asking? A what? A SEP. They’re IRAs geared toward self-employed people or small business owners. It’s a standard, I guess.

The pastor talked about his retirement planning as well. He has an IRA our cash-strapped church pays into and a series of cds. I didn’t think any of that was my business, but it was my office where he was having the conversation. The pastor has a thirty-something daughter, and he mentioned that she’s only just started her first savings account. Again, not my business. But it was still my office.

Young people should save money, Older Church Member reflected.

Yes, said the pastor. Churchrat, he added, you should start an IRA yourself.

A Roth, said Older Church Member.

Roths, I answered, are really the best choice for people my age and probably your daughter’s. Pay those taxes up front and save in the long run.

I was trying hard to move the conversation away from individuals’ finances.

Yes, you really need to do that, said the pastor. I bet you haven’t even thought about retirement planning yet at your age.
Older Church Member said that’s right. I bet she hasn’t.

I bet you haven’t noticed that I seem as well versed on the subject as you both are. And I bet you also realize I work here part time for minimum wage.

Well, the pastor sniffed you could still save something I bet.

I’m going to the post office.

I went to the post office.

One of the main struggles I have in my job is with, well, morale. I do excellent work. I put in extra time. I believe in what I’m doing. But I am paid what is by no means a living wage. The people who manage my student loans occassionally enjoy calling me up to remind me that it’s not exactly a paying bills on time and in full wage either. I have a lot of anxiety about my money. And I have no health insurance: I have anxiety about that too.

The pastor, who admittedly holds a degree that I do not hold, puts in several fewer hours and, it seems to me, much less effort. For his troubles, he receives a rent-free home, paid utilities, health insurance and a retirement plan. And almost exactly seven times my salary.

By the time I got back from the post office, I had managed to curtail my urge to tell him how ridiculous and unjust this juxtaposition seems to me. And how little I require his unsolicited meddling in my financial affairs. And that, rather than being the tallest person in the office, I am clearly the most considerate and likely the most intelligent.

But I’m still pretty pissed. I’m working and working and working at finding a new job, one that pays me reasonably. But in meantime, it’s kind of a struggle to keep my chin up.