Darn it, Money Does Matter

Money matters when you’re a senior widow.

And  lack of it is felt especially when you’ve experienced affluence in your earlier life.

I have two friends like that, who are very understandably depressed because they realize they are POOR. And they probably will be the rest of their lives because there ‘s no way to rectify earlier “poor choices” and no future planning time left for them.

One is the daughter of a bank president who grew up in luxury: a big housre, a gorgeous, expensive wardrobe, regular beauty salon visits, travel, jewelry gifts from her doting parents.

She quit college anfd married her high school sweetheart, never considering the fact that neither had college degrees or special skills, and nothing to live on beyond love.  She never had to.

Her husband joinefd ther U.S. Air force and they quickly had four children while in service. When they returned to civilian life, her father refused to support them. But he gave her husband a job in the bank which lasted only a few months. Sp he started a small sales rep company they managed together, and kept afoat living very modestly.

When her husbanfd died of a heart attack at 45, her two eldest sons, in their early 20s, helped her run it and, she claims, they stole all the money and, it went belly up, and they dissappeared. Like Blanche in Streetcar, she’s “depended on the kindness of strangers” since, working the odd jobs as a movie extra, hand model. Then–amazingly–she became an author of really good “chic lit” novels that sell briskly online.

But this friend has no regular income and is desperately wondering what she’ll do in her declining years. Social security checks and medicare are small comfort–and grossly inadequate, particularly if  you once lived a life of affluence. It’s impossible to erase that from your memory.

My other friend was a teacher, but quit when she married and had a family. Her husband, was a very successful CPA with his own small firm. Together they lived very well, in a beautiful large home,wearing fine clothes,providing and driving grand  cars , as well as providing excellent educations for their two sons.

You’d think a CPA would make plans in those good times for retirement, or for his wife’s widowhood if she should survive him. But this one didn’t.

When he died after long illness at 70, there was a hefty bank account and savings in various investments. But the couple didn’t expect his widow to live 15 years after he had stopped providing regular income.

Gradually the savings and investments dwindles as this widow continued to maintain her home and lifestyle. Nothing was elaborate anymore, but the cost of living continued to rise, as her savings continued to decline.

She now depends largely on her social security check each month. The other day she commented that her air conditioner brok and she must by a new one for $4,000.

“It’s June and getting so hot, but I can’t afford it,”  she said. True, she’s still living in that lovely home, now worth four times more than when it was purchased 40 years ago. But where can she live for less?

She’s ripe for aa reverse mortgage, I suppose, But we all know financial experts who strongly advise against going down that path.

“How did I get here,” she asked. “Life was so nice. We had everything wer wanted. And now I can’t buy an air conditioner.”

One wonders how many others lived so extravagantly in the 1980s and 90s, without planning for tomorrow.

Unfortunately, old age is an unavoidable disease if we’re lucky. Learning to live very frugally during that difficult time can be painful, and it’s especially so if you’ve been blessed with great luxury some time previously.

So can we warn our kids about this–or is that considered meddling?

Do you know people like this? What are your suggestions for survival?

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