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At our weekly Kiwanis meeting yesterday the speaker was the director of our local food pantry. Everyone makes the assumption that the area's hispanic population is their main client. Not even close. They are a minority of the clientel. But we were all shocked to learn who the largest demographic of food pantry clients are.

They are widows over 65. Women who stayed home and raised their kids and did not have earnings of their own. When their husbands were alive they both received SS and were able to get by. Now they have only one check coming into the household and they can't stretch it far enough. Many are proud and embarassed to have to ask for help. The food pantry has given them the opportunity to help by serving as mentors for young wives/mothers, providing recipes other clients can use, etc.

I couldn't help but think of my own mother, now deceased. SS was 80% of her income. She knew how to manage money and she made it work and lived comfortably. But without the 20% she got from interst at a time when safe investments paid 6% or more she might have been one of those food pantry clients. With today's interest rates she'd have a tough time making it without help.

Sorry to insert politics into this but I also couldn't help but think "Mr. Romney, meet the 47%."
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But we were all shocked to learn who the largest demographic of food pantry clients are.

They are widows over 65.


I'm really not surprised. After my mother died my father's SS wasn't enough to pay the basic monthly expenses of a paid-off house.

Phil
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I had been under the impression that the surviving spouse continued to collect 50% of the deceased's SS. I guess that's an incorrect impression.

db
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I had been under the impression that the surviving spouse continued to collect 50% of the deceased's SS. I guess that's an incorrect impression.

It was. The surviving spouse gets the greater of his/her own benefit or the late spouse's benefit. There's also that ~$250 death benefit. Don't spend it all in one place.

Phil
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Sorry to insert politics into this but I also couldn't help but think "Mr. Romney, meet the 47%."

No apology needed. This is what this election is all about. There are sharp differences in how the two parties see the nation: Democrats champion community and compassion and the Republicans, individual initiative.
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That is a scary fact, billjam. But how is it that these people did not see the possibility that one spouse my predecease from day one of their retirement planning?

Were they properly advised when they retired? Did they plan appropriately and then let expenses get out of control?

Or did they fail to anticipate changes in investment performance?

Are people being well served by the advice they receive?

Do we have to call on govt to do everything for us? Can't we teach people to be a bit more responsible?

The "I'll get by somehow" approach has its limitations.
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That is a scary fact, billjam. But how is it that these people did not see the possibility that one spouse my predecease from day one of their retirement planning?

Were they properly advised when they retired? Did they plan appropriately and then let expenses get out of control?

Or did they fail to anticipate changes in investment performance?

Are people being well served by the advice they receive?

Do we have to call on govt to do everything for us? Can't we teach people to be a bit more responsible?

The "I'll get by somehow" approach has its limitations.


I imagine that changes in the economy are responsible for a lot of problems--increases in the cost of living and interest rates, for example. I also remember the story of a widow who found out, after her husband's death, that he had elected to receive his pension for his lifetime only, instead of a smaller amount for both their lifetimes.

Karen
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Scary.

So the actual ending of "Father Knows Best" and all those other 50's sitcoms is that after dad died, June Cleaver, having no education or job skills, ended up at a soup kitchen trying not to go hungry...
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So the actual ending of "Father Knows Best" and all those other 50's sitcoms is that after dad died, June Cleaver, having no education or job skills, ended up at a soup kitchen trying not to go hungry...

Ward wouldn't have left June destitute. That's why he built a large portfolio of Xerox and Polaroid stock.

--fleg
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So the actual ending of "Father Knows Best" and all those other 50's sitcoms is that after dad died, June Cleaver, having no education or job skills, ended up at a soup kitchen trying not to go hungry...

More likely she wound up living the Beaver and his family.

The laws have evolved considerably since those days in response to changes in the "typical" American family. For example, when IRAs were introduced in the early 70's contributions to a non-working spouse's IRA were possible, but the limit was lower than for the working spouse. Today they're fully equal. There are also protections in place regarding SS benefits and employer plans.

Phil
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Wouldn't Dr. Welby carry a massive $10K or $20K life insurance policy in the '50s. I'll bet the salesman was a golfing buddy.
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<< At our weekly Kiwanis meeting yesterday the speaker was the director of our local food pantry. Everyone makes the assumption that the area's hispanic population is their main client. Not even close. They are a minority of the clientel. But we were all shocked to learn who the largest demographic of food pantry clients are.

They are widows over 65. Women who stayed home and raised their kids and did not have earnings of their own. >>




What's wrong with people getting free food when it's offered?

Frankly, I don't accept anecdotes like the one offered on this thread.


But even supposing it's accurate, if a retiree chooses to wait in line for free food rather than wait in line to pay for food at a grocery store, what's wrong with that?



Seattle Pioneer
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I don't accept anecdotes like the one offered on this thread.

What exactly is it you don't accept? It can't be that there are too many people who are unprepared financially for their "golden" years.

Phil
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But how is it that these people did not see the possibility that one spouse my predecease from day one of their retirement planning?

They probably ignored that. It's unpleasant to think about.

Were they properly advised when they retired? Did they plan appropriately and then let expenses get out of control?

Were they properly advised? Did the husband receive notices, newsletters, etc. from the HR folks in his company? Probably. Did he read about social security in general? I suppose so. Did he choose the pension option that he thought would serve him best? Probably. Did he consult with his wife about this? Probably not. I don't know whether all this counts as being properly advised. (She seems not to have been properly advised though.)

Or did they fail to anticipate changes in investment performance?
They probably failed to anticipate much of anything where retirement is concerned.

Are people being well served by the advice they receive?
Probably not.

Do we have to call on govt to do everything for us? Can't we teach people to be a bit more responsible?
Everything? Probably not. (Has anyone suggested that this would be a good idea though?) As for teaching people to be a bit more responsible, that receives high marks, and teaching people to be more financially responsible has been a common theme on these boards.

The "I'll get by somehow" approach has its limitations.
Right. (But I don't think that we should assume that the people in this story had this approach. I think that, in many cases, such as perhaps this one, rather than having this approach, people have no approach at all.)

culcha
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But how is it that these people did not see the possibility that one spouse my predecease from day one of their retirement planning?

Since my MIL had a radical mastectomy due to breast cancer and was older than her husband, when my FIL retired a few years later, they decided to choose the full pension amount without survivor pension as they were sure he would outlive her. Well, he died first, and by a long shot.

People do the best they can, but sometimes they make poor decisions.
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Fortunately, none of my family found themselves destitute. My father's family worked in the mills in NC, and, thanks to the unions (remember Norma Rae?) they had a good pension when they retired. Of course, they were accustomed to living off the land by way of gardening and hunting.

My mother's family was the exact opposite. My grandfather made a good living, even during the Depression, and most of the kids had a good education. None of the kids dropped out of HS and my mother graduated from college in 1928. My grandfather and grandmother also lived off the land, as they had a lot of land and gardened. My uncles hunted and shared their bounty with my grandparents.

When my father retired, he chose to accept less money per month so my mother would also have a good pension, should he die before she did. We all thought that Daddy would outlive mother, but that did not happen. Fortunately, they, too, were frugal, and had a garden as long as I can remember. In addition, Daddy was also a hunter and a fisherman.

My mother wanted for nothing after Daddy died. Fortunately, she had enough money that, after I moved her from FL to SC to be with me, there was enough that I could have a caregiver for her as I worked and went out of town for work.

I remember the recession of the 50's very clearly. Even the Federal Employees had to accept a 10% wage cut. Daddy was given the opportunity to move into a new position that was only available in Baltimore or Columbia. Although we all wanted to stay in the Chesapeake Bay area, the location of the VA Hospital in Baltimore was not optimal, whereas the location of the VA Hospital in Columbia was in a much more desirable area.

Not everyone has the opportunities that my family did. They were not wealthy and were not cheapskates, but they were frugal. (Thank goodness they taught me that lesson.) Many families did not have a pension (think construction workers) and all the widow had was a little money in the bank, if that, and the spouse's SS benefits.

I don't think SP is old enough to understand half of this.

Donna
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I am a widow. I never worked enough to take SS on my own meager earnings. When I reached age 62, I applied for SS. I receive ALL my late husband's SS. I was pleasantly surprised to learn this. I receive half his pension.

Why are these survivors receiving only half the couple's SS?

Birgit
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Why are these survivors receiving only half the couple's SS?

For the same reason you received only your late husband's benefit rather than that plus your spousal benefit you would have been entitled to at age 62 were he still living:

A surviving spouse gets the larger of his/her own benefit or the late spouse's benefit.

Phil
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Exactly,Phil. And I'll add an example I'm personally familiar with from a few years ago. Husband was receiving a little more than $1,100 SS and wife about $800. Neither had a pension. They owned their modest two story home and their car. The home was old and required a fair amount of maintenance. Even with special provisions for seniors property taxes were pretty high in the area. Add to that insuance and utilities and you had a good sized nut that didn't drop a penney when he died. She got his $1,100 but the household income dropped 42%.

Now why didn't they save lots of money while they worked? Maybe because they were raising kids and sending them to college. Maybe because his first wife had Alzheimers for 20 years at a time when public aid didn't help unless he depleted his assets and put her in a nursing facility. He might have worked more in retirement but he was at home caring for her. Or maybe they just never figured on living into their 90's and thought they had saved enough.

The good news in this case is the kids stepped up and helped the widow. Don't count on that in this day and age when the kids are moving back to mom and dad's and can't make it themselves.
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Exactly,Phil. And I'll add an example I'm personally familiar with from a few years ago. Husband was receiving a little more than $1,100 SS and wife about $800.

In my area we have HUD housing in nice efficiency apartments that provide meals and housekeeping (independent living style) for abt $500/mo.

People who find themselves in this situation need not do without. They merely must be willing to accept the assistance that is available to them.
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