I was greeted this morning with a visit of the Ghost of Retirement Future:
In a matter of months, I went from a comfortable life with decent pay and health insurance to a $6.50-an-hour job with no insurance, no furniture and just enough resources to keep the wolf from the door.
I no longer buy anything unless it's absolutely essential. I spend $40 at the supermarket and make it last for more than two weeks. I never turn down a free meal. I've learned to graciously accept money, furniture, elk meat and encouragement from worried friends.
I am no longer proud.
Now, she goes on to tell how from being an editor in a magazine, she became another proud service worker. She ends the article in a remarkable way:
The fact is, a fall from financial grace can happen to anyone. And in reality, I'm not really poor. The official poverty line for a one-person household is an income of $9,800 a year, and I'm still above that. And can I really be considered poor if I still have some savings, or still have my house?
The reality is that she is poor. She has practically no financial security, she is about to "retire", and an illness is all what it will take to take away her home and her savings.
The US is remarkable in that she we cannot accept the idea of social classes. Worse than that, the country firmly believes that if you are poor, it is your fault.
My feeling is that our government keeps the poverty line artificially low for two reasons: to deny services to people and to declare by fiat that we as a society are better off than we actually are. Moreover, as long as poor people feel that they are middle class, they will complain less because they feel better about themselves.
And let’s face it: without a solution for dealing with the coming old age of boomers, many will probably end up in a similar situation if they lose their current jobs and can’t find another one with equal pay.