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From: Vol.10 N.01 – The Transformative Now


by Storm Ainsely
I learn the term vested means
by the time I can use any of this match money
global carbon emissions need to have peaked

that I’m supposed to be able to take more risks
because I’m young and there’s time 
for the market to sort itself out

I take the financial checkup
& I’m in great shape on budgeting & debt
because the only way to escape 
that college dream, to pay off that diploma
(I didn’t even get it framed)
was to wear frugal like a name

I had to learn 
interest compounds daily 
& doesn’t get rounded 
until the very last calculation
so it mattered, staying on 
Income Based Repayment
advancing that due date in case 
something happened & I couldn’t pay

I’m not rated so great at saving 
or protection—whatever that means
perhaps because I haven’t written a will
& didn’t get short term disability insurance
cause I’d have to pay for it

I think they—those people writing these checkups
don’t know what it’s like now 
to be able to pay my rent 
a month ahead & my bills quarterly
to buy shoes & pants when mine are in pieces
to get healthier groceries, fillings done when I need them
& avoid plastic in most of my household supplies

I’m not paycheck to paycheck
maybe I’m not at 10 to 15% savings per month
but it’s only been 2.5 years since debt freedom
& I had to do a lot of catching up
after neglecting myself for 10 years

I pull up the tool to help verify options that
don’t support fossil fuels or for-profit prisons 
or deforestation or war weapons
& find there’s not one I can pick that gets all A’s
my best bets score C’s in gender equality, great 
way to support my sisters

so I try out some of the tools 
to estimate what I’m supposed to save
I’m asked to set a retirement & death age
it defaults to 67 and 96, respectively. 
I type 70 & 100. Then change 70 back to 67. 

I start reading the plan documents
different rules for if you’re 59.5 vs 62.5 or 65
or something
realize I’m skimming

we globally have to reach carbon neutral
before I will reach retirement age

& I don’t believe in the market
that it will always trend up
or even that it should 

lists of letter combos, percentages, inception dates
remind me of student debt
remind me that I was already trapped
before I saw the trick
I don’t like this 
I’m not interested in risk

so I email a parent
how does one find a trustworthy financial advisor?
what’s the difference, between pre-tax and Roth?
why I am even looking at this
with record extinctions,
pollinator colony collapse,
worsening drought, fires, floods, hurricanes?
with news of microplastics in lungs, in placenta,
in the Mariana trench?

& I get back the understanding—not put so bluntly
that I have to learn this whether I opt in or not
because I will need to understand 
my parent’s investments
when it is time to sort their affairs

better to discuss it now
than learn in grief

but I am already grieving
& I find myself wanting to call my employer
& yell, if you want to vest my future, 
spend this money planting trees!
because that’s the investment
I need

don’t tell me
these fake numbers
have anything to do 
with my future
& the chances that I’ll actually want
to be living in it.  


The 401(k) is an employer-sponsored pension plan that helps employees save for retirement.

Published: June 2023
Storm Ainsely

can hardly believe she’s approaching 10 years living in California, her ninth in the United States, as it still feels she’s from fiction-land. Storm misses rain, the colour green, and cloud-watching, but enjoys visible stars and wants to learn the names of all the mountains. She despairs over plastic and is saving up for her tiny-sustainable-house-on-wheels. Her work has appeared in Sleet Magazine, Cardinal Sins and Wild Roof Journal.

An Australian and international
journal of ecopoetry and ecopoetics.

Plumwood Mountain Journal is created on the unceded lands of the Gadigal and Wangal people of the Eora Nation. We pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and to elders past, present and future. We also acknowledge all traditional custodians of the lands this journal reaches.