15 Dec 2008

If there was ever an incentive to plan for the future

filed under: journal  :: modern life  :: money

My mother called me about something from Japan, and in the course of our conversation she mentions that she has a cleaning lady come in for 3 hours a week. I teased her a bit about it and how well off she must be to be able to afford that. (My mother is a cleaning fanatic who says that cleaning is one her hobbies, but she hasn't been doing well health-wise recently; still, it's the first time she's ever hired anyone to clean in her life.)

"Oh, but I don't really pay much at all." she said. "Actually I feel bad about how cheap it is."

"How much do you pay?" I asked.

"Just 600 yen an hour." (That's about US$6.60 at the moment.)

"Wow, that's cheap. Is it some school kid?" I said. (Which would be very unusual, come to think of it. School kids in Japan rarely have part time jobs - they are deemed to be too busy studying.)

"No, she's a 72 year old lady" said my mother.

72 years old, and cleaning other people's houses for 600 yen an hour. It seems that this lady, who divorced her husband decades ago, doesn't have an adequate pension to fall back on; she lives alone in a tiny cheap rented apartment, and must support herself.

This just knocked me over. She is a very spritely and cheerful 72 year old according to my mother. But still. It just seems incredibly sad, to reach that age and have to work a physical job like that for such a cheap wage. (Thank goodness that she can get health care for almost free at least in Japan.) It seems that she had two grown kids in their 40s, but they don't support her financially at all.

There but for the grace of God go I, in a few decades? Perhaps not. But still, it's really made me think about planning for the future financially. 2009 would be a good time to start. And I am so grateful that both my parents did have good jobs while they worked, and now that both are retired they each (since they are divorced also) have enough reserves to live a life of leisure. I visited my father in New York last month, who has a busy, active life of volunteering at his church, going to the gym and physiotherapy regularly, and socializing. My mother and my stepfather (who's still working 3 days a week) are ok financially too. If I were in that cleaning lady's kids' position, I wouldn't be able to support my parents financially either.

Comments on this post:

While we can never prepare

While we can never prepare for everything, doing what we can, can make a big difference when the unexpected occurs. My husband unexpected was forced out of his job and is now trying to make a go of self employment. The savings we had have made this possible, but the economic crises has made it harder than expected. Roll with the punches I guess.

So true, this is a huge

So true, this is a huge incentive to save for the future. Especially living in this generation most of us don't plan for it, or assume that the future will provide things that simply 'work out'.

Things don't just work out, and we need to prepare for the future as much as possible. Thanks for posting this inspiring story! It's sure an eye opener.

I am one of the few lucky

I am one of the few lucky ones. I paid off my debt a few years ago just because I could not stand the debt that my ex-husband loved to collect. I am lucky enough I do not even have a car payment. This makes bearing this current crisis so much easier and only confirms for me that I need to stay debt free.

Great post and all too true

Great post and all too true in these times of financial 'insecurity'. My wife and I have watched the last month or so the value of our 401K plummet. We too the last month to stop buying stocks and pay off all our debts. Luckily it was not too bad. We are now saving up enough to live for 6-months in a money market fund. After that we will start buying stocks again and hopefully we will be in a recovery by then. It is good to give your financial future serious thought even when you are in your 20s!

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