Thursday, 10 February 2022

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I am home in Panamá after three weeks of seeking information in Scottsdale, Arizona. This is not to say that I found the necessary information in Scottsdale, but that this resort city was the homebase from where I sought the information in person and on the internet. Information is everywhere!

The first batch of personal information I received was years ago when my mother handed me a packet of information that, as a good mother, she had gathered and safeguarded on the top shelf of a kitchen cabinet. The exchange was unceremonious, but meaningful. It was like a rite of passage wherein I became more conscious of information that had been collected on my behalf and for which I was now responsible. I could no longer ask my mother for my birth certificate, sacramental records, and other vital statistics.

Now, for the last 45 plus years, I have lugged my personal information around with me. It’s as safe as it ever was in my growing-up-home, now placed in a black banker’s bag! Ha! I know that I have such information scanned and/or in some photographic form, but I really should bring it all together in an electronic form so that I can easily pass it on to the next person who will want and need ‘my information.’ This is my nephew, the poor guy. My attorney should also get a copy of such important come to think of it.

Retirement has also brought with it a myriad of information for which I am now also responsible. Medicare enrollment happened pretty much automatically because it is mostly a case of the federal government knowing if I am alive and, if so, into which year I am. This information about me had been stored for years by the Social Security Administration. I also supplied my gross annual salary information every year to my accountant who then gave the information to the Internal Revenue Service which kept track of my salary information during the years of employment or unemployment. This information was recalculated every year so when I chose to retire, the Social Security Agency would know how much of my deducted untaxed revenue I would receive and for which I would begin to pay the retirement income tax for the rest of my life.

Choosing to retire in Panama requires more information. I submitted my fingerprints to the Federal Bureau of Investigation only to find that there exists ‘no prior arrest data’ at the FBI. Feeling ‘justified’ on a federal level, I also note that ‘This [clearance] does not preclude further criminal history at the state or local level.’ The FBI’s information or lack thereof about me apparently satisfies the Panamanian government that I will be a safe, law-abiding resident.

Panama also requires that I provide them with an authenticated copy of SSA form 2458. This form substantiates the amount of social security I will receive each month for the rest of my life. This information is officially acknowledged by the Social Security Adminstration after all monthly deductions are accounted for. For the many years of my employment the federal, state and city governments have been collecting this financial information so that each could have a share while I worked and I would still have something left over to be be taxed when retired. Isn’t there an expression about death and taxes?

Of course and thus far, I have just reviewed a tiny portion of my accumulated personal information. These days when I fly out of Panama, I need information related to my covid positivity or negativity status; a passport number; a destination address; luggage claim information; a flight confirmation number; flight numbers; a seat number; a class code; a terminal number; a gate number; etc. Most airlines keep this information stored with my permission in what is called my profile. This profile contains further information such as credit card numbers; e-ticket credits; fidelity program statistical information; emergency contact information; seat preference; upgrade information; past, present and impending flight information; priority status information; TSA information; etc.

To spare the reader the time to read further, I need only mention medical records and on line portals, insurance information, licensures, telephone directories and the dreaded compliation of passwords and other codes. Clearly, we live in a world justified by information. So, if we are anything, we are fonts of information, some of which we know such as our names and some of which we may not know until it is our age-given right to know, such as our confidential social security benefit information.

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Published by Thomas

Retired from active priestly ministry in the Catholic Church; former Benedictine monk; francophile; Holocaust researcher; Delta One Million Miler; Ex-Patriated American to the Republic of Panama

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