I remember when the Soviet Union fell. One of the most pitiful pictures to come out of that upheaval was the sight of elderly women (and a few elderly men) sitting on the streets, with a hand held out for donations for food. They were sleeping in the streets, for a time.

Much as the collapse of the USSR helped most people, the elderly, who had never been able to acquire resources, were now destitute. Their pensions were gone, the social infrastructure was absent, and they were the unhappy uncared-for leftovers.

That was 30 years ago – those people are likely dead. The younger ones, now older, have been able to save for their old age.

But, it may be a preview of what will face an aging population that is no longer getting full Social Security, able to count on children (as many didn’t have any), nor a retirement they hadn’t saved.

I do get that the history of the economic swings in the post-1960’s have made budgeting for retirement – difficult. It was not the easiest time to be an adult.

Less than a year after I graduated, by 1970, the economy was in the toilet, jobs (plentiful just a year before) were getting scarcer and harder to find, costs were only held in check through price freezes (which also contributed to the loss of jobs), and the price of housing, and the interest rates, had started their long climb to ridiculous.

I didn’t have the money to buy a house till I was nearly 40. A settled lawsuit gave us the down payment. We had massive debt, and little savings well into our 40’s. Only after a long period of carefully living within our budget, were we able to eventually eliminate our credit card debt. Even before that point, we were saving – both in an emergency fund, and for our retirement.

Saving for retirement is more essential than ever. Few people have an employer-provided pension – mostly government workers and teachers. In many states, those pensions rest on VERY shaky foundations. The worst of them are in the heavily unionized states – CA, IL, IN, etc. Don’t believe the people who tell you they are fully financed – those people are flat-out lying.

The other aspect that makes this poorly-funded pension so damaging is that many of those teachers were in systems that opted out of Social Security long ago. Very few of the teachers can qualify for Social Security at all. So, everything is riding on the stability of that pension fund.

One bright spot is that teachers qualify for TSA’s – commonly called Teachers Savings Accounts. They function very much like a 401(k). If you put money in, it will be taxed at a lower rate when you retire (assuming that you earn less in retirement, which is usual).

Both my husband and I contributed to these – him more than I. Many teachers put some money aside that way.

But, most did not. So their entire post-work income is riding on a pension system that is shaky. They are in a comparable state to someone who didn’t save outside of Social Security contributions.

Potentially living on the streets, like those former Soviets.

Many families will take in an aging parent, brother or sister. It will cause some stress if Mom or Dad brings in no cash to help with their support. It’s worse for those who haven’t children to help out.

The next 20 years are gonna be tough. Those without resources will be in desperate straits. Some will die earlier than they might have.

Try to have some compassion. Yes, many of them were grasshoppers, but they still need to eat.

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