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?

Honoring human beings

We are living in a ‘throw-away’ society. At one time, goods were made to last, and the US manufactured items that were well-made. It used to be that a company had loyalty to its employees – they were taken care of, paid well, and at retirement they had a good pension. Times have changed.

Now goods fall apart rather than wear out; people aren’t given the respect they deserve; the US doesn’t manufacture much any more because companies can get cheap labor overseas. And for those who are employed here, the company has no loyalty to them, unless they are upper management, in which case they can get huge bonuses and stock options, even if the company is losing money.

Many people seem to dismiss other people as not worthy of recognition. And I think this has grown out of the changes in our society over the last 40 or so years. We have become a people that only value those who make a lot of money, or who have a big house, or drive a fancy car, or have the ‘right’ skin color, or the ‘right’ documents. People in service occupations: store sales people, wait-staff, garbage collectors, etc. are treated like dirt by some people who use their services. I am embarrassed by what some people say and do to wait-staff and sales associates in store. It doesn’t take much to express appreciation for what these people are doing for you – how about just a simple ‘Thank you’.

The person who picks up your garbage is just as valuable as the CEO of a national company; maybe more so as what would happen if your garbage didn’t get picked up for a few weeks? We tend to look down our noses at those who earn their living by labor rather than brain. How did we get to this point? Is a garbage collector less valuable than an accountant? Is a sales associate in a department store less deserving than the CEO of the company? No! Everyone has a worth, even those who are unemployed, or on welfare, or laboring in the shadows. It’s time to get our priorities straight and honor every human being just because they are human. So let’s start treating people as if they are valuable members of society; because they are.