My mother was 82 when she passed away in 1987. She lived through World War I, the Great Depression and World War II. When she was born, women weren’t allowed to vote. By the time she became an adult, they were. She was a feminist before anyone had thought of the word. Life’s lessons made her one. She watched the nation grow and evolve for almost a century, a century in which changes – both physical and cultural – would have been unimaginable to previous generations.
She was 30 years old when the Social Security Act was passed. Her taxes paid for those who initially qualified, as mine did for her and my offspring do for me. It’s a pact and a promise between and amongst generations.
She recognized that these were benefits that she worked for, not government handouts. Throughout her retired years she always referred to the third of the month, the day Social Security checks arrive, as “payday.” Whether defined as insurance or described as a retirement benefit, Social Security was something that she had earned – one way or another.
Before Social Security, poverty amongst the elderly was rampant. This was so even at a time when families were larger and when siblings could help – if not with dollars, with care – and could take mom or dad into their homes. Over time families became smaller and both men and women found it necessary to work to provide either a working class or a middle-class lifestyle.
Today a new phenomenon has developed. It’s called the “sandwich generation.” It refers to those who are squeezed between their kids and their parents. Both need their help.
With all the hand wringing about the need to cut Social Security benefits, I ask those who will find themselves “sandwiched” in the future, “Do you expect to be able to financially support your parents if Social Security benefits are not enough?” Consider that when you and your kids are sucked into the meme of the day, “Social Security won’t be there when you retire,” – and be sure it is. And know that it won’t be if it’s “privatized.”