The Social Security Administration likes to taunt us by sending annual reports that tell us exactly how much money we earned over our careers.
It's like your mom shaking you out of bed and fussing for the umpteenth time, ''When are you going to stop fooling around and become a dentist or lawyer or social networking site mogul and earn some real money for my retirement? Honestly!''
The ''Your Social Security Statement'' arrives in the mail about three months before our birthdays. Mine just showed up.
I sniffled a little as I studied the year-by-year summary of my financial life under the heading ''Your Earnings Record.'' After 33 years of gainful employment, I should reach my first million dollars within the next 20 years - just in time for retirement.
I just won't have any of it. I've squandered it all so far on frivolous living, such as groceries and gasoline, diapers and pediatricians, mortgages and insurance, and tacos.
The earnings record charts a zig-zagged diary of success and failures over the years.
The $4,000 jump in 1988 tells of the year I left my first full-time job mid-year for what seemed like fabulous wealth.
The Big Plummet in 1993 is the eight months I quit my job to become a rich and famous author. I sold one piece for $450, then went back to work. I couldn't afford to be rich and famous.
But it's Line 1 that brings the smile: ''1977 - Your Taxed Social Security Earnings, $143.''
It was my first job - the first one that paid into Social Security, I mean. Mom and Dad didn't report my allowance earnings.
In 1977, just before my senior year of high school, I was hired for the summer at Coley Cole's Dairy Dreem, a burgers and soft serve stand owned by my cousins Clarence ''Coley'' and Leota Cole. The mustard yellow building sat on the corner with the only traffic lights in all of Monroe Township.
I was a soda jerk, although some customers shortened that title, such as when I gave Chocolate Shake and Pizza Burger Guy the bag meant for Fish Sandwich and Onion Rings Lady.
The pay was a tad over a dollar an hour, minus taxes. Plus, there was a food allowance. An eight-hour shift earned just about enough allowance for a burger, fries and a small hot fudge sundae.
I preferred to save up my food allowance until I could spring for the biggie - a Coley Burger. That was a third-pound chopped sirloin with cheese, grilled onions, lettuce, ketchup, mayo and relish on a large sesame seed bun.
Plus a LARGE root beer milkshake. You know it's a good place when the milkshake flavors include root beer, butterscotch, hot fudge and marshmallow.
It was the only job I ever worked at which I could eat my mistakes. A banana split with the wrong toppings was a pleasant goof. Not so in later jobs for muffed molded fiberglass parts, crooked roofing shingles, overcut shrubbery, broken porcelain dolls or misplaced commas and colons.
By the next summer, I'd moved on to one of those other jobs. But Line 1 on my earnings statement - all $143 of it - is the sweet spot.
And it would have only taken me 6,993 years there to earn my first million dollars.
----- Remind Cole that getting paid for working and actually doing some work are two different things at firstname.lastname@example.org.