This article is reprinted with permission from NextAvenue.org.
My widowed mother was left with debts and a bare bank account. So she married an older man whom she considered rich. “I don’t want to be a burden to my children,” she said.
Remarriage is not my goal, but I am in the same boat as Mom. And mine is sinking.
In just over a year my pension money will be gone. My only income will be Social Security.
Fortunately, I have two adult children who have promised to support me. But does that mean they have to support me in a fancy high-rise? Do they have to pay for my Tony Health Club membership?
But more importantly: how do I deal with my shame?
It is not my children who place this shroud around my aging neck. They pride themselves on their ability to intervene. The cloud only floats above me.
This is what I can’t understand. I’ve always worked. Before my first marriage in 1960, I taught high school. I worked for a large real estate company. I was a press assistant for Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne and School Superintendent Ruth Love. A mayor of a big city! A system of 649 schools and 341,382 students.
I am not without identification. But apparently I suffer from a serious lack of planning. And the solution chosen by my late dear mother is not attractive.
My shame is related to a resume that listed my own PR firm representing nonprofits. I can give you names for references.
Unlike my mother, there was a time when I had a lot of money. When my first husband and I divorced in 1996, we split the sale of our house in Chicago. I was ready for it.
I remarried in 1998. My second husband Tommy was a dream of a partner. He joined our union with his modest savings, which he transferred to our joint bank account. Blessed in this new union, I proposed to retire. We were in our late 60s, both on Social Security and my remaining money.
Then the 2008 financial crisis hit. My balance was halved. Somehow I wasn’t worried.
Tommy passed away in 2012. I sold our house and moved to my current neighborhood. Rents continue to rise. My retirement funds are sliding in the opposite direction.
What I didn’t expect was that I would live so long. I turned 85 in August. My father died at the age of 45, mother at the age of 67. How could I get so old? I am currently healthy. If an accident or an errant cell doesn’t intervene, I could live into my nineties.
Related: Americans are ‘more afraid of running out of money than of dying’
Afraid of being a burden
I wonder if others my age are in similar situations. Most may not be as lucky as I am. They may not have children who promise to prevent my move to more modest quarters.
But then there’s the shame. How could a woman as skilled as me, with such an excellent work record, be a burden to her children, as my mother feared?
Any changes to the steps I outlined could have changed the outcome. I could have chosen a rich guy as my second husband. Why didn’t I? My marriage to Tommy brought wealth of love, respect and happiness. That was a valuable bargain.
I am proud of my talented offspring. But they have children of their own. Spending to fuel their careers. Responsibilities that I am not aware of. Why do they have to finance my old age?
I’m considering a cut. I could leave this classy neighborhood and find one that is more affordable. I could end my membership at my top-tier health club.
Read: How to downsize: Fast
My kids would still have to pay my rent, but it would be significantly less. There are many neighborhoods where I think I can be happy. All I need is access to a park so my dog Doris can romp.
I know there are people reading this who want to throw a rock my way. ‘What is she complaining about? She will never be on the streets again or worry about her next meal. She needs to shut up and count her blessings.” I agree with that.
Like my widowed mother, I don’t want to be a burden to my children. But I won’t repeat her route, which turned out to be tragic. Her husband was a cheap skater, suffered from dementia and survived her by many years.
Read the following: My wife and I are 62 and have about $3 million. I think she can retire. “How do you know if you have enough money?”
Although I am luckier than my mother, that does not diminish my shame. How could I have looked at her these past years and now reach out to my children?
I’m grateful that my children are going the extra mile. But how do I deal with the disappointment I feel about myself?
Elaine Soloway is a PR consultant, writing coach and technical teacher, and author of ‘Bad Grandma and Other Chapters in a Life Lived Out Loud’ and ‘Green Nails and Other Acts of Rebellion: Life After Loss’. The Emmy Award-winning television series ‘Transparent’ was created by Elaine Soloway’s child Joey and inspired by their family. Follow Elaine on Facebook, Twitter @elainesoloway and Instagram.
This article is reprinted with permission from NextAvenue.org©2023 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved.
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