My paternal grandmother once told me that she had always been a good money manager, but she couldn't hold a candle to my mother. My Dad apparently felt my mother was good at stretching a buck, too. One time he teased her by saying she could take a yard of fabric and get three dresses out of it. She was not amused, but you get the idea of what kind of models I have had.
I learned as a teenager to sock away money to save for clothing and an occasional luxury. We girls back then could not work before age sixteen, but boys could get paper routes at an early age (twelve, I think.) One of the most lovely, generous things that has ever happened to me was my brother counting his money from collecting for his route, separating the paper cost from his tips and walking across the hall and giving me a dollar or two. I saved these for future treats most of the time.
When I became old enough, I worked sixteen to eighteen hours a weekend in a local drugstore -- for $1.00 an hour. The summer before I went to college, the hours changed to five week nights and all day Sunday. The dollars mounted up so I was able to buy a wool suit and a winter coat to start my college wardrobe. And, it was from one of the best dress shops in town. My Mom made some clothes and my grandmother, the good manager, usually bought me a nice dress for birthdays and Christmas. These, and other ways, I've always managed to scrape by financially. I paid most of my college housing costs by working part time and summer jobs.
After my husband got his doctorate, we bought our first house. At some point I had promised I would be a stay-at-home Mom during the children's early years. I kept my promise until he wanted a third child. I agreed to the child, but went back to school after he was born. I got an M. A. in Educational Research and Psychology one or two courses at a time while running a household and taking care of a husband and three kids. Then, I completed most of a doctoral program before my marriage ended.
During the years of no work, I missed having a few dollars of my own. I asked for, and received, twenty-five dollars a month for which I didn't have to account. I saved all winter for a big splurge. In the spring I bought enough bush honeysuckle to cover one entire side of the house, as well as two or three bushes each of forsythia and Japanese flowering quince.
Over the years, my husband, and then the children, got used to my rat hole of funds. First the adult dude would say he had an emergency and needed to "borrow" some of my stash. One time, I exhausted the fund I was saving to buy a studio loom because the dude got expenses paid to present a paper at a convention in Hawaii. Wives were welcome to go as long as the couple paid the cost for her plane ticket and the extra for her staying in the hotel room. By the time the trip came around I had saved spending money, too.
Once I was a single parent, the stash became a savings account upon which the children became dependent for emergencies. It was as though they had read Mama's Bank Account and had quit before the end of the book. They aren't the only ones who grew to count on me. I had done so also. A number of times I worked a "good" job days and a minimum wage or similar one nights so I could maintain a sense of security. But, now I am a senior citizen, totally dependent on my Social Security, partly because some crooks squandered a retirement program I had earned; and also because the individuals for whom I have worked paid on the "cheap" where possible. The government being reluctant to tax the rich who were even more reluctant to pay a living wage, at least to women, did not want to look into a crystal ball toward the future. If they had seen, they would have realized that the minimum wage also dictated the hourly wage for the better positions. What was earned dictated how much the employee and employer had to pay into the Social Security fund. And how much we paid into the fund determined how much we would receive as retirees. Or maybe they did "see" and just didn't care. It never occurred to them it would come back to bite them in the rear later when Social Security was threatened and they had to support a significant number of senior citizens with medical care, food stamps and heat costs.
So, shortsighted, if not uncaring, government officials have borrowed and borrowed from our Social Security funds which they replaced with paper to call in at a future date. In order to pay back for the "paper" now, the U. S. government, which has also squandered all our other funds, with wars and pork spending as well as unrealistic taxation and tax loopholes, has to borrow from China. It is already borrowing from China to pay the interest on all our other debts.
After years of hearing that Congress was trying to chain our CPI so we got even less Social Security than the amount we can't live on now, I began receiving duns for money to be used to convince Congress to increase our Social Security base by $800 per recipient. Like the dudes who want to chain the CPI would fall for that! But, what do you know? It seems to have been recommended by Senator John McCain, himself.
I've told you all before that I have $25.51 left in my savings account. Many years, the rise in costs that immediately follow the annual announcement about Social Security increases, exceeds the expected raise. Thus, seniors are left to face the coming year's inflation with less cash for expenses than they had the previous year.
I have to tell you, folks, unless you were paid like a man, or amassed a retirement fortune, it isn't pretty out here. No matter how good you are at managing, survival depends on something to manage. Give us a break! And, please, quit bitching at us for needing it. Sometimes it feels as if you would prefer that we just die so we wouldn't need it. I hope the members of Congress haven't become that dysfunctional.