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- After years of working for nonprofits, I approached the age of 60 with no pension or retirement savings.
- While financial assistance is “supposed” to only flow from parent to child in North America, this has not been the case for me.
- It was embarrassing, but my daughter and son-in-law are helping me financially.
I will be 60 years old soon. For me, the prospect of retirement is terrifying. Or rather, if I do not have a daughter with whom I have an exceptional relationship.
I’ll eventually have to stop working on my point, obviously. When I do that, without help, my standard of living will be impossibly low. Impossible because my total income from the Canadian government would be somewhere around $1,500 per month.
I didn’t get a job with a pension, and neither did I I managed to save. The average price for a one-bedroom apartment in Toronto, where I live, is currently $2,100. Fortunately, I live in a rent-controlled two-bedroom for which I pay $1800. I share it with a recent refugee, which helps us both.
I’m on a waiting list for decent subsidized senior housing, which can run me for less than $600 a month. The waiting list is about 12 years, but I found out in time. Do I need help living, well… I can’t bear to think about that. The pandemic has demonstrated that Ontario, like many other North American provinces and states, considers seniors to be dispensable.
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My financial journey wasn’t linear
I grew up with the privilege of race and class. It was not my intention to squander it, but rather to publish it. I worked in the nonprofit sector, trying to equally distribute opportunity and hope. I regret to say that much of this work has been undone. After several layoffs, I chose to run my own business, which failed spectacularly at the same time as my relationship. I have been unencumbered since then.
My mother passed away when I was only 26 years old. I was so upset with the sadness and stress of having to take care of my parents even Dealing with the unexpected gains that followed. My inheritance wasn’t enough to live lavishly, it was enough for an okay situation down payment on a house. I put $45,000 on a $149,000 property, I remember exactly. A roughly equal amount I let slip off my fingers—and my husband’s, which was an extra spot. We were too young to want to travel, eat in restaurants, and buy stuff for the grown-ups.
I managed to stay in the housing market until my business went bankrupt. But as a woman over 50, I found my employability shockingly limited when I needed to return to the job market. I couldn’t even get the low-paying work I did before without a graduate degree. And I didn’t have one of those because I became a very young dad.
Things started going south very quickly. I only got short-term contracts, and ended up working as a nanny. I got more and more into debt, not making a big living, but just buying groceries and medicine and sometimes a little art to keep my spirits high.
I eventually had to consolidate my debts through a bankruptcy agreement, which destroyed my credit rating but saved my bacon. approx. Some months I’m still shorter, if I have unexpected expenses or succumb to a small urge to splurge. Really sucked. I had to think carefully about how I got here, and try to forgive myself.
Asking my daughter for help was awkward, but we make it work
In North America, where adversity is supposed to be overcome and the self-made myth is still dominant, the only direction in which financial assistance is supposed to flow is from father to child.
A lot has been written lately about how only millennials who can go to a mom’s or dad’s bank will ever buy homes. Some of my contemporaries still go to the bank of their elderly mothers or fathers to make ends meet, because this generation, which paid 3 times the annual salary to the house instead of 10 times the annual salary, was able to save. A lot of my fellow artists – especially artists – don’t have pensions, and inflation is out of control.
I had to do the unthinkable and go to the daughter-in-law’s bank, not because her reserve is great – they just finished a large number of university degrees and are established.
Why is financial assistance from a child to parents so shameful? In many cultures, this will not be the case. Elders are respected, even revered. They are taken care of first. But not in my social circle.
I was so embarrassed to ask my daughter for help. All I can do to save face is to joke that I would give more than the money in free childcare if she had children. Which I did. and did; I took care of my granddaughter full time for a year during the pandemic. I still cycle back and forth to help out with her two new twin sisters as often as my half-time work and writing parties allow. As we navigated our way through this mutual aid arrangement, my daughter persuaded me to stop doing the math.
My daughter Emma, now 36, reminds me a lot of the values I instilled in her (she wasn’t exactly a red diaper baby, but somewhat pink): dependence is not weakness, economic polarity is horrible, and greed is by far the worst mistake anyone can make. someone get it. Money is not a means of evaluating value. So I try to pay attention to her reminders.
I no longer write myself IOU notes to keep track of her help. I’m glad I succumbed to a sales offer Lifetime full insurance years ago; I feel good about leaving this at least, because there will be no inheritance. But what makes me feel so much better is knowing that my benefactor doesn’t care about the policy and would rather not collect it for too long.