Sunday, December 11, 2016

Retirement Planning for the Poor

Library of Congress:  New England Housewife 1940

In my childhood days, living in New England, there were many called "the working class."  These were traditional families where Dad worked while Mother stayed home to care for the family.  It was a simpler time.  (By today's standards, financially speaking, these would be considered "poor" people.)

Mothers were busy making food from scratch. In those days, convenience food was not common. Most Housewives did not trust pre-made frozen foods! They had always made their own food and felt it was wholesome and nourishing.  Mother took pride in feeding and caring for her husband and children.

These Mothers deep cleaned their homes on a regular basis. They mended the family clothing. They were productive at home doing things that did not earn them any money.  The fathers went to work earning the living.

In those days, debt was something to be avoided.  But the goal, here in America, was to own one's own home.  In the early 1970's, many houses were available for around $20,000.  These were lovely homes that were very simple.  Once a family purchased a home, they generally stayed there. This established neighborhoods and communities with people everyone knew and trusted.  This also gave them security that they had a home which was either "paid for" or would be paid off in the near future.

Owning a home was a big part of financial planning. It brought stability and security.  In some families, particularly in Italian homes, once Mother and Dad were older, they would have a grown child still living with them, perhaps a son with his wife and children.  This helped them take care of one another. It also kept expenses low since there were more people to share the work and the cost of living.

The house was kept within the family.  Sometimes a bachelor son or maiden daughter was still living in the house when the parents passed on to Heaven. It was called "the family homestead," even if it was a small house in the suburbs of Boston.

The biggest investment a family could make was to own a humble home.  Planning for retirement meant working for as long as it was physically possible. It meant making sure there was a gravesite for the final resting place.  It meant doing one's best to have a basic life insurance policy to cover the cost of a burial.

Things have not changed that much.  There are still "working poor" families whose best investment is owning and maintaining the family homestead.   In Scripture we are told that the poor will always be among us.  There is certainly nothing wrong with being either poor or rich.  There are just different ways of living and planning for retirement.

I have always loved having a house full of people. It is a blessing to have grown children, and even grandchildren living in the same home.  This is what I have grown up with, and what I have always known.  (For those who are not familiar with this kind of life, there is an excellent example of this on the television show, "The Waltons." )

Middle and Upper class families may have all kind of investment strategies.  There are excellent books which teach all about retirement planning for those with "disposable income."  It is certainly important and noble to be a good steward of the money one has.  But realistically, the working poor are not going to have investment portfolios or plans of retiring from work early.  They are not going to have disposable money.  And that is okay! 

I have seen many of the working poor live beautiful lives of simplicity and godliness. I have seen them live with a focus on their Eternal Home.  The contentment they feel is inspiring.  They have worked hard their entire lives and passed on the work ethic to their children and grandchildren.  Their values of morality, thrift, and charity are admirable and worth emulating.

Sometimes, the main goal of retiring for the poor is simply looking forward to that incredible resurrection morning and hearing:

"Well done, thou good and faithful servant. . .  enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."
 - Matthew. 25:21

Mrs. White

From the Archives -

Old Fashioned Living - Thrifty Elegance.

In Case You Wondered - The Secret to a Clean House.

Old Time Frugality - To Earn and not To Spend

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Find Home-keeping Inspiration, in Mrs.White's book -Mother's Book of Home Economics .  Paperback, 312 pages.


Mrs. Laura Lane said...

Beautiful thoughts. My husband and I are in our early fifties. We hope to own a home of our own someday. Retirement most likely won't be in our vocabulary. Be blessed and have a wonderful Christmas!

Deborah Montgomery said...

How quickly things have changed. Your description of the working class is how most of us of a certain age grew up. It was indeed a simpler time. I do so love the idea of a family homestead. Such a feeling of permanence and place. xo Deborah

Anonymous said...

My husband and I were discussing about this very thing the other day. We have heard many who put money into the stock market to lose in the crash. The other is that the company they worked for went bankrupt and they lost their retirement funds.

He opted out right now to contribute to such a thing. He feels you can't trust that anyway. Right now why not get things paid for and live life by faith. If we believe God will provide, I believe he will. It may not be by the world's standards, but that is ok.

I think we will see more families living together. This is how some cultures do it. It would be a lot less stress on the younger families and it helps the older family members too.

Thanks for a wonderful post on what is really worth it in the end. We must have faith, enjoy the simple things in life, and looking toward our heavenly home.

Mrs. B, a very peculiar person said...

Hello Mrs. White,

I love how eloquently you write when addressing tough topics.
Avoiding debt put us on the path to, hopefully, paying off the balance of our mortgage within the next year thus, returning us to a 100% debt free life-style.

When working with others to improve their financial situations, it has been my experience that the most financially dooming situation for a senior citizen is carrying a mortgage or rent and credit card debt. The necessary paying out a mortgage or rent and credit card payments each month, places senior's on limited incomes in a very precarious financial situation if a health crisis occurs.

In my humble opinion, working to own a MODEST home, free and clear, before one retires is the best financial decision any one can make. Note: a modest home is key, as large luxury homes are generally more expensive to operate and maintain, thus, becoming a strain on a fixed retirement income. The second best financial decision one can make is to live a life-style free of debt - especially credit card debt.

Once again, thank you for so eloquently sharing your wisdom.

Unknown said...

Timely message, Mrs. White.
God bless you and yours

Quirky Homemaker said...

Lovely. :) We are that family now, although I think my hubby plans on kicking the kids out asap. I wouldn't mind them staying. :) Hope you have a blessed Christmas season.

Dawn said...

Mrs. White, I live in the Greater Lawrence area of MA, and back in the day it wasn't unusual for people to buy a three-tenement aka triple decker for them and their married children to live in and then get passed down through the generations.

I'm too young to have lived during the heyday of that society, but it sounded like a wonderful time even though no one had much money.

The husbands went to work in the mills and most women were able to stay home and raise the kids and they kept their neighborhoods spic and span. Woe to the housewife who didn't scrub down the porch and steps and sweep the sidewalk each week. The neighbors would be sure to notice it.

No doubt most people worked very hard. It wasn't an easy life but people had good morals and pride and a sense of community.

living from glory to glory said...

Greetings, This is such sound advice! Having a modest home that is paid for before retirement is a way to alleviate a stress that is hard to carry once you are older. This inspires me to be wise in my spending each and every day!
I enjoy having some of my children living close, and I do hope to keep our home in the family. I may need to make some changes in my thinking and to stay simple in some areas. I need to ask myself before each purchase "is this a need or a want?"
Thank you for your words of wisdom!
Hugs, Roxy

Deanna said...

Dear Mrs. White, Christmas blessings to you. I always enjoy visiting your blog and find your writings comforting.

I especially embrace this: "I have seen many of the working poor live beautiful lives of simplicity and godliness. I have seen them live with a focus on their Eternal Home. The contentment they feel is inspiring. They have worked hard their entire lives and passed on the work ethic to their children and grandchildren. Their values of morality, thrift, and charity are admirable and worth emulating."

All the best,

Kathi said...

Wonderful, inspiring post! What a lovely life... I wish more of us could attain peace and simplicity like this. Life has become such a rat race.