Irene, Age 70
This September I will be 70, a fearsome age that somehow I never seriously considered. Compared to many women of my age, I am doing well…I am married, my second husband is a good companion, I am in fair health, and we have barely enough money to last the rest of our lives. I retired at 65 and thought I would have a fairly comfortable rest-of-my-life.
Money is the big issue. He is 9 years younger than I and was laid off from a good job in late 2009, when he was 59. He struggled for a year and a half applying for every job he could find, but the recession was deep and he was not a veteran and, frankly, just too old. Finally he came around to admitting he was never going to get another professional job and we have totally redone our finances with that in mind. We thought we would have a fun, comfortable retirement. We had saved well, invested well, inherited a bit from our parents, and owned our architect-designed home free and clear. But those dreams are down the drain. We cannot sell our house to anyone because it is unique and all the house investors/buyers want to buy is huge square footage stucco palaces in foreclosure or bankruptcy. No one is interested in a nice-home-in-a-good neighborhood…not at any price. We put it on the market in 2010, dropped the price three times, and still got no offers. We finally let the listing expire and just decided that this was where we lived. If we get frail, we will not be able to afford assisted living because assisted living costs about what our house would have sold for in a better real estate market. Without any money from the house, that becomes impossible.
So my dreams have bit the dust…no more foreign trips, which we had done often when we were both working, no more jumping on a plane to go see our only daughter who lives across the country, and living in a state of constant frugality and fear of spending even a few dollars for a movie because we may need it to to live on our 80’s and, god forbid, our 90’s. The hardest thing was to be honest with our daughter and tell her that there would be no inheritance left for her, and the old days of taking her on trips with us while we paid, and picking up dinner checks, were gone forever. We got her through undergraduate school with no debt for her or for us and she took on some debt for her Master’s degree. She is very understanding and loving, but it has hurt me terribly to realize I will never be able to be generous with her again.
I have also had to give up any charitable or political or religious giving. I have squeezed out a small amount for our church yearly, but it is no where near the amount we used to give. I have completely cut off charitable giving to anything but the church. That makes me feel guilty and like a failure, but it is the reality. Our biggest expenditures for the rest of our lives are going to be health insurance and health coverage. That’s a grim future without much lightness or joy or hope.
So here I am…almost 70, knocked out of the upper class to the middle class and now to below-the-poverty-line class, focusing on making do, reusing, doing without, in order to keep as much money as possible for health insurance and health care. Certainly not where I ever thought I would be.