“Hey, mom! How are you doing?” asks Deborah’s son.
An elderly woman, 77 years old, replied, sighing and looking at her phone bill simultaneously, “Surviving.”
Her bills were too much to bear these days, so she had considered canceling her phone service. Deborah never thought she’d still be alive at age 77. She never knew she’d still be working. But every weekend, she hustles down to Costco and gives samples out, earning a couple of dollars a day because she needs the money.
Deborah told her son, “I’ve got to run,” as she stood up from the table.
“Hey, you should consider getting another roommate because Patty has passed away,” her son said.
Deborah explained, “Of course, I will do it, but it’s not as easy as it seems. Could I ask you if you mind if I asked you if you would mind taking a look at Facebook or something?”
“Well, on my break today, I just found the time to call you. Kids and wife, life as it is. I don’t even have time for a proper meal sometimes, and I do not see my kids often because I am always stuck with patients.” he answered.
Deborah agreed with him. She worked dozens of odd jobs in her forty years of employment: a housekeeper, telemarketer, home health aide, librarian, and fundraiser. She did not have a steady job that allowed her to contribute to Social Security multiple times over her lifetime. She did not receive a pension. And she didn’t make enough to put away money for her retirement.
Although she didn’t want to push it, she asked, “Maybe on the weekend? Social media is not something I am very familiar with.”
“I think you should learn it; it is not that difficult. By the way, how is your leg? Is it still hurting? I would suggest seeing a doctor,” Deborah’s son advised.
“I am unable to afford to see a doctor. I do not have Medicare.” Deborah sighed again as she sat at the window. This is not the way she expected her career to end.
He suggested to his mother again, “I heard that Medicaid would be available to people your age in California. You should check with your local welfare office.”
Deborah’s son living in New York may not be easy, but she understands him. He has kids and a wife who works hard and barely makes enough money to pay for food and medical bills. At least he calls her, unlike the kids of old folks she knows. At least he does not live in a trailer park. His life has improved since getting his nursing degree, and he has a good job.
In her case, Deborah, who is 77 years old and living alone, earns $925 a month in Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). This government program assists low-income seniors with housing costs. Since her roommate died last month, she has had to pay this rent.
“I have been taking on credit-card debt to cover the shortfall and pay for utilities, food, and other essentials. I am broke.”
“What do you eat? Is it healthy, or do you eat a lot of junk food?”
“It is sufficient for me to get food from my church or the local food bank.” Deborah answered her son, “I don’t go hungry.”
“I think it would be a good idea for you to apply for the Cal-Fresh program. That will be of great help to you. I know you still need to pay all your bills, but at least you will have a better option for food than going to the food bank. Okay?”
“Ok,” she replied. “Thank you.”
It never occurred to Deborah that she would find herself in a position where she did not have adequate retirement savings, especially given the growing cost of healthcare and housing. Even though she became aware of a 401(k) plan, she could not participate since she was not part of her employer’s retirement plan.