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Just Piss in the River



May 06, 2008 – Comments (1)

My Mother in law is moving in. It is just a matter of time. Put away those nightmare mothers in law stories, I call her Grandma now and she is Grandma to my kids and was mom to me before she was ever Grandma. But this post is not about getting along with your in-laws. I cannot help you with that. Moving in was my idea. I suggested it two years ago, but Grandma wasn’t ready yet.

 Let me introduce you to her. Her father is Grandpa. He immigrated to the US, and worked as a dishwasher and as a laborer until he landed a job riveting wings onto airplanes. This job earned him enough money to get married, buy a house, and have kids. It came with healthcare and a pension. Population growth allowed him to sell half his property for someone else to build on. He retired and kept working part time as a janitor. Her mom worked cleaning clothes and houses and making Sunday dinner. I miss them both.

 Grandma had a brother and a sister. They all got married, all had kids, and all got divorced. Over time the kids grew up, the brother got disowned and her sister died of cancer at forty. After her divorce Grandma and her two daughters, one of whom I married, moved back in with her parents. In fact all the kids came back after their divorces. Grandma stayed.

  Grandma never graduated High School. She worked a variety of jobs after her kids were born and after her divorce. Living at Grandpa’s house made it possible for her to accept lower pay in a union job that also came with healthcare and a pension. Her employer never thanked him.

 Eventually her kids grew up, moved out and got married.

 Her Father was frugal, the heat was low and he turned off lights. When he retired he took some saved money and built a house in Florida to retire to. His wife died before they could ever go. After she passed he sold the Florida house, preferring to stay near family.

Because her brother was disowned and her sister was gone, when Grandpa died he left everything to my Mother in law. Everything was his house, one hundred thousand cash from the Florida house, some bonds. No stocks.

 About ten years ago, Grandma retired early. Her company was offering buyouts in order to replace older more expensive workers with younger cheaper ones. It worked out for Grandma because heart disease was slowing her down, and her Doctor was telling her to retire anyway.

 She was in good shape when she retired. Her heart did not stop her from doing what she wanted to, she had healthcare and enough pension and SSI to pay her bills. She had a place to live for the cost of her taxes, which is about one third the cost of rent.

 Over the course of ten years things changed. Electricity went up, so she turned off more lights. Her Doctor prescribed a few more drugs. Two years ago she turned down my suggestion to sell her house and to move in with my wife and me. Recently the cost of gas and food and drugs has squeezed her a little more. She did not graduate High School, but she can add. She suggested she could sell her house and build an apartment onto ours for her to live in.

 Independent retirement for her lasted ten years. Without her fathers house it would have lasted five.

  This past Sunday I read an article in the “Act Two” section of Newsday (, titled “Shattered by Debt”. It basically spoke about a very high percentage of people heading into retirement with debt to pay. Irwin Kellner who is chief economist for Capital One Bank and Marketwatch ticked off the reasons. Living without a budget, overspending and undersaving, gambling, lack of communication between spouses, making financial decisions without understanding the ramifications, divorce, and most recently home refinancing which has depleted home equity. Curiously four of the six examples of indebted people in the article blamed health costs, mostly drugs.   

 Grandma is seventy. The people in the article are fifty, and sixty six and sixty and sixty two. One woman, a fifth out of the six who is healthy at seventy seven is still working because her husbands nursing home takes his SSI check.

 Some of you are saying if these people hadn’t committed Mr. Kellners list of failures they would be fine now, and able to afford their drugs. Ok, but that is not my point.

 The article I just described began on the cover and finished on page three. On page two you can find “Tips” from experts on random subjects affecting older people.

 The top article was titled “More Women are Singularly Contented”.

 It says there are 60,000,000 American women over age forty five, and half are single whether divorced or by design, and the article says they are living happy fulfilled lives which I do not doubt because it says so. Kay Trimberger, author of “The New Single Woman” and Professor Emeritus of Women’s and Gender Studies at Sonoma University in California interviewed thirty single women aged thirty to sixty and found them leading happy and fulfilled lives not based on finding a partner. Her tips for women include: have friends for emotional support in case of divorce or being widowed. Make your home your castle in order to provide a feeling of permanence and nurturing. Connect with the next generation, through mentoring, adoption, or nieces and nephews. Become economically independent, “this means finding a job that provides both income and satisfaction”. Ms Trimberger is most concerned that these women don’t feel pressured by society to get married unless they truly want to. Important “Tips” Ms Trimberger. Please call Mr. Kellner.

 Also on the “Tips” page and to the right of the article that mentions Ms Trimberger’s book is an information blurb titled “Retiree Add Boom”. It says as the population ages there is good reason to advertise to people aged sixty five and over. “As the population ages corporate America realizes there is gold amid the gray”. It says thirty percent of all retires have cash or investments worth more than $100,000.

 My thoughts turned immediately to the seventy percent who do not have $100,000 dollars. They won’t last five years in retirement.

 And to those of you who have $100,000, I would like to make a suggestion. Try to resist the advertising.  You are probably better off preserving your money and not discussing Flomax with your Doctor. If you decide to go kayaking, just piss in the river.

1 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On May 07, 2008 at 12:14 PM, madcowmonkey (< 20) wrote:

So many questions I would like to ask, but I will just let it be.

Are they missing a zero? 

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