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The Changing Face of Poverty

Here in the U.S. we're all celebrating Independence Day. I'm not big on parades or picnics, but I take them in now and then. I did my parade and picnic duty when the kids were little. It was fun - no doubt about it. But, as time takes its toll on me, I find my allergies reacting to very little stimulation - and, hence, I avoid the out of doors as much as possible. This morning we walked the dog - so she could blog - and that will be the extent of my interaction with the warm sunshine and soft morning breezes.

I don't mind. I enjoy looking at nature through the windows - or, on television in a special about creepy crawlies or snakes or wild animals. LOVE that. Just don't want to be IN it. Apparently, I am not alone. The gov wants all of us to be more aware of air quality. Never thought it would be of prime interest to me, life begins to weigh heavily on my shoulders, reminding me that I'm not getting any younger, I notice all manner of things I never paid attention to before. The most prominent being the fact that in one month, I'll be celebrating another birthday. A milestone.

This whole growing up thing has been challenging to me. TV news is focused on President Bush turning 60 this week. He's pretty fit, they say. For a man his age.

One cannot escape the "for a man (or woman) of his (or her) age." It's nothing new - we might have remarked on our parents' physical and mental conditions likewise, 20 or 30 years ago. But, 20 or 30 years ago, 50 looked different - and, I am confident saying - FELT different. In those days, growing older meant - growing older. Becoming stooped and gray-haired. It meant cutting back on activities and recreation. The depiction of anyone over 50 was usually a white-haired woman in a rocking chair, knitting booties for her grandchildren!

Well, time marches on. We boomers will not go lightly into that dark night. We're determined to stay young and healthy. We hike and rock climb and go boating and camping. We run marathons and travel overseas. We refuse to grow up, let alone grow old! I wrote a bit about this over at ThirdAge not too long ago. Older_women

And yet - according to my Sunday paper - some of us may have no choice. Some of us are mired in poverty - unable to embrace youth and good health. Some of us face dark days ahead, in our "declining years." Tragically, those 'some of us' are - women. In an article taken from The Dallas Morning News, I learned this weekend that many boomer women face poverty ahead. I like to talk up our resilence, our refusal to be less than we are: strong, competent women. But, this article opened my eyes and gave me something to think about.

According reporter Bob Moos, "Ms. Brown, who's 63 and lives in Oak Cliff, is one of millions of older women who live alone and scramble to make ends meet. Their median income is $12,080 a year, half of what older men receive.

"Long overlooked, these women have begun to gain the attention of policy analysts and lawmakers who expect the number of poor older women to swell as 40 million baby boomer women retire. "

The thought of these women, lost in a system that never gave them a chance, gives me goose bumps. It makes me fearful of my own future - because I am, in essence, one of them. Here's why,

Women just don't make as much money as men - and, more of the money they do make, is spent on their families. There just isn't enough left over to save or invest.

That statement, quoted in more places than this article, hits disturbingly close to home. <sigh>

And, when women drop out of the workforce to stay home with children (something I was proud and delighted to do), they actually contribute to their financial instability. How? According to Laurie Young, Director of Older Women's League, in Washington DC, "Women also drop out of the workforce for an average of 12 years to care for children or parents. When they do, they forfeit $550,000 in wages over their lifetime."

I am confident NONE of the young women who read this blog will see themselves in this picture. I am confident that NONE of them will take the time to consider exactly what their jobs, their stay-at-home status, or their relationship with their husbands has to do with their ability to retire in comfort. Sadly. Because, the face of poverty is no longer a little child with sunken cheeks and sad eyes. It's the face of your mother or grandmother - with fear in her eyes. It could be YOUR face, not too far down the road...if you ignore the advice to prepare for old age while you're young.

Shouldn't we, as good U.S. citizens celebrating our independence from tyranny, bring relief and comfort to these women? Shouldn't we as women - take this issue to heart and find a way to give our mothers and grandmothers the respect, comfort, and care they deserve, in their declining years?

One way to start is by utilizing this list [taken from the news article] to help our aging parents and friends receive qualified information on holding poverty at bay... If we don't - who will be held responsible? Not our so-young president. No, WE will be held responsible, because WE are responsible.

These local social service agencies offer money- management classes or counseling for older women:

  • The Senior Source, 1215 Skiles St., Dallas, 214-823-5700
  • Jewish Family Service, 5402 Arapaho Road, Dallas, 972-437-9950
  • La Voz del Anciano, 3316 Sylvan Ave., Dallas, 214-741-5700
  • Wilkinson Center, 5200 Bryan St., Dallas, 214-821-6380
  • Consumer Credit Counseling Service, 8737 King George Drive, Dallas, 214-638-2227 (Classes are free. Counseling costs $20, but the fee may be waived.)

Another way is to actually think about tomorrow - instead of waiting for it to happen. Be pro-active, for your mother, your grandmother, and certainly for yourself. Otherwise, it will be your face in the newspaper or online - with the caption, "This isn't how it's supposed to be. I never planned to get divorced, to live alone, to be jobless. It wasn't supposed to happen to me."


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I am a younger woman, who decided to stay at home and raise kids instead of pursue a career. However, after reading Rich Dad Poor Dad, I could see that I needed to take control of my financial future.

I built and sold an online business while at home with kids, and I have started another one as well.

The internet has leveled the playing field so that the divide between working women and those who stay at home with their kids should begin to blur.

However, women becoming financially independent is a key issue- not matter what age or path you have taken in life. It is women's issue in my mind- because it is ulitmately about taking reponsibility for ourselves.

It is my passion!
"I believe the key is for women to not set any limits."


There's another aspect to this because the personal is always political. "Women's work" like "women's issues" have less merit in this society. Therefore the work of a stay-at-home mom caring for her children, or a woman caring for her aging parents has no value according to economists. It's not counted in the gross national product. Yet, if no one did these things, where would we all be? Why is caring for children so devalued? Not only do we need to take care of ourselves, but we need to raise a ruckus with our government and our men. Somehow, money needs to be put away in our social security insurance for women who do the work (and it is harder work than many jobs I've had!) of raising children and caring for the sick.

These aren't "women's issues;" they are people issues.


Thanks for the eye-opener. It's scary, but true. And what of those women who, in addition to the lowered life earnings, have a disability?

colette dowling

Thanks for bringing this tremendously important topic to the women of America. I am a widely published writer of 35 years, but when I wrote about this subject "on spec", 4 years ago (I had the queasy feeling I wouldn't get a nod until I did all the reserarch and made a persuasive case)no one touched it, including--and especially--the women's magazines.I've written articles for New York and The New York Times Magazine, but no go there, either. New York expressed interest, but changed editors mid-stream know how it goes. In any event, if the subject had been considered hot enough I wouldn't have dropped between two stools. This subject is, unfortunately, far from hot. Maybe now that women are talking to one another like crazy, via blogs, the important stuff will come to the surface.Thanks again for your care and efforts. I'd be interested in knowing how people respond to your blog.


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