When I was young, very young, I never thought about retirement. I naively thought there would always be someone around to take care of me; parents, husband, children.
My father had a job, and my mother raised us kids, took care of the house, etc. My dad gave her money every week, housekeeping money, so she could buy food and whatever else was needed to keep the household running. We gradually moved up in the world, from my first memories living in a 2-room flat with no indoor plumbing, to a great big 4-bedroom 2-story house. I had a younger brother, 5 years younger, who got whatever he wanted, just because he was a boy. I was destined to be a nurse, or a teacher, but only until I found a husband who would take care of me as my dad took care of my mom. Hence my belief that there would always be someone to take care of me.
Because I was a girl, I wasn’t supposed to be good at math, or science, or any ‘real world’ stuff, because after all, my future husband would deal with all that, right? Fortunately for me, my dad realized how smart I was and encouraged me to study and learn whatever I wanted, and he had to fight the school so that I could do that. But when I graduated from High School, I was on my own as far as education. Learning was fine for girls through High School, but only through High School, unless it was Nursing School or Teacher’s College. So I went to Nursing School.
So with this background, I had never learned how to manage money, plan for the future, or any of that stuff. When my father died, my mother didn’t even know how to write a check – she didn’t have to because my father took care of the finances.
The husband, and the kids, came and went. I learned a few things along the way. By the time I realized I was on my own, I was barely making ends meet with nothing extra to stash away for retirement. The dream of having someone to take care of me was just that, a dream. The reality is that the only person who can take care of me is…me.
I am facing retirement in a couple of years – or I can keep working until I die. I choose to retire. My partner and I have learned to reduce the income we need to make to live well. So things have turned out well for me. But there are many women out there who are not as fortunate as I am. They are the ones who were left to raise kids on their own; the ones who suddenly find themselves divorced; the ones who lost their jobs. Women in general lose out on almost half a million dollars over their lifetime in retirement money because of not working, or leaving to raise kids, or because they are paid 3/4 of what a man makes for the same job, or because they are in a ‘pink-collar’ profession.
Are you prepared for retirement?