As a commentator on issues which I believe are of interest to many EO’s readers, I decided to convey to you my personal experience Thanksgiving Day at a festive family meeting in San Francisco.
During the meal, an 83 year old widowed neighbor told me that she lives on $1,000 per month (Social Security); her home, bought during the 1940’s for $28,000 was paid for; has never been remodeled nor renovated. Her furnace is the original pot-bellied cast iron gas-fired model; the electrical circuitry is original. She is from Arkansas; married at age 17; never attended college; did a variety of service jobs while her husband served in the military.
One of her sons conveyed to me that he has served in Viet Nam as a soldier; and later joined the Navy. One of his comments was that the post WWII GI Bill created millions of college graduates, such as he, who were now capable of being critical thinkers, and as such make their own assessments of what is good or bad for this socio-economic American community. His concern was that of President-Elect Trump, and how he during the past election campaign had used language which encouraged the racist element to come out of the shadows.
His main concern was what would he do if his mother’s health failed or her home required major repairs. As a former programmer, his employment was sporadic; not reliable.
“Those good ole white boys in Arkansas really like Trump; they think white supremacists will now guide this nation. But I have news for Trump…America now has millions of college educated individuals who have read the U.S. Constitution; who have fought to sustain this Democracy, … and there is no way in hell that he can become an effective President without living up to, and honoring, the American ideals as established in our Constitution. He better not cut back on Social Security nor on Medicare/MediCal. If Trump is really a ‘real estate mogul’, he needs to deal with creating an affordable home national program. I can ensure that my mom will never go hungry; but I cannot cope with this crazy real estate market in which some people get filthy rich while others end up impoverished. People need the basics, regardless of their social or racial status. If Trump messes up, ordinary people in Arkansas are angry enough to revolt.”
Here, in one generation, individuals went from being impoverished and uneducated to the college trained level who could look out for each other. This woman and her family do not need to be ‘filthy rich’, but they do need to continue to live in a stable socio-economic environment in which they can sustain their lifestyle and its requirements.
Two weeks ago, a single friend, age 80, came to our home to get advice about her financial situation. She had just sold her home and was down-sizing to a more modest life style. I asked her about her assets. She replied, “I have $470,000 in the bank making no interest earnings; I have $370,000 from my mother’s estate. Oh, I just remembered I have $90,000 in another bank; and $30,000 in a credit union.” I proceeded to ask, ‘do you have a budget?’ “Oh, no…I just spend what I need to.”
I told her to do the following: for one week, every time you spend money or pay a bill using a check or credit card, ask for a receipt and place it in a brown paper bag. At the end of the week, analyze what you have done with your money. She was astonished by her analysis of her ‘brown bag receipts’- how many ‘impulse purchases’ were made for stuff she did not need. I told her that now that she was 80 years old, she couldn’t do that anymore.
She is a Stanford University graduate; who worked for Palo Alto Hospital (before it merged with Stanford University Hospital); upon retirement she worked as an editorial assistant for a publishing house; bought and managed a small hotel which she sold. Later, She revealed that she had just quit her job at Stanford University Medical Center and had not received any retirement fund payments, ever! With our advice, she is now making her claims for any and all retirement funds due her.
In brief, this single 80 year old educated woman, now knows that she has enough money to sustain herself during her ‘sunset years’. Instead of planning to spend her money so that it runs out when she passes on, I pointed out to her that, “none of us know when we will die. A better way is to invest your wealth so it provides a stable income during your entire lifetime. And, have a will which bequeaths your wealth to a non-profit organization or relative.” As it stands she has enough wealth in hand to purchase a home and still have enough monthly income to sustain her life style.
To the main point of these parables, what would upset the personal plans of these two women? It would be extraordinary health care expenses or home repairs. Based upon these retirees, this nation needs to sustain its Social Security Administration’s purpose; create an affordable national health care system; and establish a national housing policy. Its elected officials need to ensure that all financial institutions are monitored to ensure honesty and integrity. It’s important to continue to enable any individual who wants to become educated to achieve the personal development needed at each stage of one’s life. Though these two individuals are from different sectors of the American community, they both need stable reliable sources of personal income, housing, health care, and an education which enables them to perform critical thinking and to make evidence-based choices. Both were working class consumers neglected by both major political parties which have other priorities. What this nation needs most is a stable society and reliable domestic economy. All elected officials need to include the needs of retirees for peace and socio-economic stability.