Home > Incentive


January 22nd, 2023 at 08:47 pm

When I was a kid, we struggled financially. It wasn't because my parents were lazy, it just that money was tight. I saw resourcefulness as well and hard work and believe I was raised with a Depression Era attitude.

Once I finished college and landed my full time teaching job, I listened to some of the older teachers talking about pensions, retirement accounts, and things like that. My dad and mom had to rely mostly on Social Security come retirement, and I can attest it was nothing but a struggle. I found a financial advisor who was willing to work with me because in 1986 teachers didn't make squat. So, $50 a pay period went into a 403b. And let me tell you, $50 a pay period was tough back then. I kept telling myself it was for my future and my retirement. 

Last week at the grocery I saw a very nice looking older lady. She was dressed clean and neat. I am nosy so I was waching what she took out of her cart. One potato, a loaf of bread, a bunch of celery, some canned vegetables, a couple other fresh vegetables. She paid most of it with the Link card and I could tell she wasn't proud of that, but she also had to pony up some other money. My heart went out to her. She looked like someone who probably had been an upstanding citizen her whole life, but found herself unable to make it on whatever she was getting, I am assuming Social Security. She was careful with her shopping -- no snacks, no junk food, just wholesome food. I imagine she is careful in other areas of her life as well.

Knowing how my folks struggled and seeing her is incentive to try to save. I was fortunate -- I could save in a 403b and a Roth and I have a decent pension. I'm not getting rich by any means, but I'm careful. I know when my mom died and I was paying bills, I realized how close to the edge she skated each month to not having enough to pay for things. In fact, a few of the bills she wouldn't have been able to cover if she had still been alive. 

I wonder if people who keep thinking they can't afford to put money in retirement accounts -- I'm not talking about the truly poor -- I'm talking about those who make good money, but tell themselves they will save later -- if they would have the incentive to save more for retirement if they had people like this lady tell them how the struggle is real. Then again, would they think it would apply to them?

6 Responses to “Incentive”

  1. crazyliblady Says:

    I also see people like this at the grocery store and feel badly for them. I hope they are able to get supplementary food through a food pantry and Meals on Wheels. Assuming they also get food stamps, I wonder if they know that they can buy food plants and seeds to grow their own food with food stamps. It does not require a big yard to grow some plants like lettuce, a pot of cherry tomatoes, and maybe green onions, for example. This kind of thing would go a long way towards helping themm to eat healthy.

  2. latestart Says:

    I have volunteered at my church's food pantry and have watched people who helped distribute resources later become recipients.

  3. Petunia 100 Says:

    My heart would go out to that lady, too.

    I grew up working-class poor, too. My dad started becoming seriously ill when I was 8, and it was not long before he was no longer able to work. We lived on Social Security Disability, and money was tight. My parents were renters. A few years into my dad's illness, they were able to buy a 900 sq ft 2/1 house. My mom took a seasonal job at a local cannery. When she was paid, she would put all of her paycheck towards the mortgage and we continued to live only on SSD. It took her 4 years to pay the mortgage in full. After dad died, she put the life insurance money in T-Bills, which at the time paid 18% (this was 1981).

    My mom still owns that same house. Her property taxes and homeowner's insurance are very low. She lives comfortably on her SS benefits and her savings. I wish that she would spend a bit more freely on things she would like, but she opts to do without and hang on to the money. Frugality is her lifelong habit.

  4. Wink Says:

    @Petunia 100: Your mom is a very smart lady to have paid off the mortgage in just 4 years! I really wish that schools would require all students to take a financial planning course that not only teaches about saving and investing, but also about how important it is to live within your means and how to manage debt, and to stay out of debt.

    There are so many reasons that people fall into hard times. Some may be irresponsible, but a lot of times it's just that life happens. Medical debt, divorce, illness, death of a spouse, job loss etc. For young people today, everything is just so expensive. Rent, housing, health care, childcare, food, education. It's hard to save on top of everything else, even with a middle-income salary.

  5. livingalmostlarge Says:

    I'm with you. I think a lot of people spend on stuff like eating out and fancy cars. It's hard to get ahead with saving with a $1000 car payment which on a 3 year car loan is $36k car. Many new cars especially EVs nowdays are substantially more than that.

  6. Brunette Says:

    I grew up poor too. Both my parents were college graduates but they had 8 children... which was fine until inflation hit hard in the 70s. I am a teacher in my mid-40s and my husband and I save a ton for retirement. We have credit card debt that we could knock out pretty quickly if we didn't save for retirement, but we are afraid of being burdens on our kids when we are older.

    My dad (deceased) was in a union and though times were tough, his retirement and benefits have been fantastic and he left my mom with a few properties (the house he grew up in as an only child, the house they bought together, and a house they bought for one of my siblings). My mom lives with us now, not out of necessity but because she wants to (and we want her to), but she is very comfortable and has plenty of money and income. My husband and I hope to be like her in our 80s!

    My husband nearly maxed out his 401K contributions ($73 short), plus his work gives him a 3% match and 6% profit sharing is dumped into his 401K on the first paycheck of each year. I contribute almost 11% to my teacher pension and an additional $1400 (almost 15%) to a 403B. Although the money we put into retirement would be so helpful today, we pray that it will benefit us, and our children, even more in the future!

    My heart aches for anybody in the situation you described and I pray that what my husband and I are doing today will pay dividends tomorrow.

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