A real retirement story.

There is an idealized version of retirement that is held up as the gold standard of what we are all supposed to be working towards. This pipe dream was concocted decades ago by the corporate interests that control the country.

You work for 40 or more years and spend the entire time being wise with money so that you can spend your twilight in relative comfort and reap the rewards of abusing your body, mind, and soul for decades. But no one tells you how to be wise or how to handle adversity so you just figure it out as you go. This fly by the seat of your pants approach can work if you are incredibly lucky, but most people aren’t.

My parents are a perfect example of how this scenario plays out in real life.

They did their best and worked for more than 40 years to attempt to achieve this ideal. In the process of trying to eke out this living, they were terrible with money. They managed to dump all of their effort into a home big enough for four but neither one of them may live to see it paid off. There is no savings of any kind, save for the windfall inherited from a failing parent. That’s enough to pay for the mortgage for a couple years and that’s it.

Dad actually didn’t ever get to see a paid for home before he succumbed to this disease and the very real affliction of a stroke. Mom has resigned to believing she will always have this debt and that is just how life is. They both took the bait and proceeded to build their lives on this pervasive narrative that was and remains bullshit. Without any kind of guidance, they managed to make it for decades, living the lower middle class proletariat dream. But only just so. We never made it all the way into the middle class and never got close to the upper class. They did their best with received wisdom and predictably failed to gain any kind of traction. Because the wisdom was no longer sound in the world they occupied. I am not sure that it was ever sound, but I never believed in this old convention anyway.

Now dad is dead so the primary breadwinner is out of the picture, leaving mom with social security alone to pay for this dream. If she manages to live to her mid 80s and doesn’t miss a payment, she might even get to own the home. After 50 years. 50 fucking years of service to this dead ideal.

That is what retirement looks like in our family. If you’re lucky you’ll die before they come to take back their property that you couldn’t pay for doing things the right way.

P.S. – I omitted specifics out of respect for what my parents sacrificed in order to chase this American pipe dream. I think they did the best they could with the tools they were given. They couldn’t have known the tools were broken.

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