Growing up in a less-than-affluent family, I have long had an overly-anxious attitude about money; I have cash issues. I’d fret over bank balances, refuse to talk about savings programs (you can’t save what you don’t have, you know) and had no idea what retirement funds were. While I used to overtly obsess about finances, I have, over time, become more slightly more comfortable, knowledgeable and practical about the issue of dollars and “sense.”
As my hair turns more gray and my birthdays roll around with alarming fast frequency, I have begun to pay more attention to some positively serious subjects like the national debt, and Medicare, and stock markets, and the economy…and bag ladies. I actually learned more about the major monetary topics by my morbid fear of becoming a bag lady, complete with sturdy black shoes, rumpled and sagging hose and the requisite bag. Not being comfortable with money and its many accompanying topics makes one fear the worst, and my “worst” was not having enough money to live comfortably (not lavishly, mind you) in my golden years. “Comfortably” used to mean enough money to take trips to visit grandchildren and take them to Disneyland. Lately, “comfortably” means being able to afford medications, a decent place to live and funding to pay for a nursing home or care when I need it. In this case, ignorance is NOT bliss.
The majority of the elderly poor are women, bag ladies-in-waiting. In her last weeks of life, my mother’s 24-hour nursing care was running $2,000 a week. In 2008, according to the Social Security Administration, 46% of elderly (read: me) unmarried (read: me) women (me, too!) receiving benefits relied on Social Security for 90% or more of their income. Women represent 57% of social security beneficiaries who are age 62 and 69% of those who are 85+.
Of particular concern is the realization that the power pack in D.C., who are making decisions some of us never even hear about, have a pretty primary impact on my staying out of the bag lady career. While I don’t necessarily scour the stock market pages of the paper daily, I do find myself perusing stories of the jobless rates, as well as proposed changes to retirement programs and tax cuts more deeply than before. Now, that coverage is of particular importance to me as I recalculate the lower return rate of portfolios, rising costs of prescriptions, escalating medical procedure expenses, healthcare premiums, and my ever-lengthening lifespan. I worry about those women who don’t have portfolios to be concerned about, who have to decide between needed medication and food, who deny themselves physician visits and who work in jobs that offer no healthcare benefits. Where is their safety net? Will they become tomorrow’s bag ladies?
Our national platform should include, “Ensure No Bag Ladies.”