In which I wonder what my old age will be like.
Yesterday, I read an opinion piece in the New York Times. It was a good man’s story: older, loyal, secure; then his company “restructured.” Now he’s been unemployed for years. He’s too old to get a job; he has a preexisting condition so he’s unable to get insurance; he “always did the right thing,” and is now facing abject destitution.
He’s not much older than I am.
I have not done the right things.
I went to college, yes, but I didn’t have any discipline. I took classes that interested me, dropped out of those that didn’t, and in six years of higher education came away with substantial and still growing debt and no marketable degrees.
I got married, yes, but I chose badly. I didn’t choose someone who would make a good helpmeet and life partner. I chose someone who, at first, rocked my socks off in bed and who, unlike anyone else, actually asked me to marry him. But that was it, there really weren’t any other important qualities there between us, not the kinds of qualities that get you through your working years and safely into your dotage with your needs modestly taken care of. So naturally we divorced, and that left me with no equity and even more debt.
Now I’m of an age where I should be investing and building my retirement. Instead, I have no savings and no insurance. For the next few months, I’m giving 30% of my monthly income to my dentist so I can keep a tooth. As soon as the root canal and crown are paid off, I’ll do the same thing for my eyes, because I really need my prescriptions updated. After that’s paid off, no doubt, something else will happen, and I’ll pay that off too.
But eventually something might happen that I can’t make payments on. What if I get hurt, or need medicine? I’m employed, so I’m not eligible for many types of relief, but I earn too little to, say, be able to spend a bunch of money on meds every month.
I’ve been insured fewer than four years since I started working.
I’m not borrowing trouble. I’m stating that it is statistically likely that I will need something I won’t be able to to afford.
Which means I have failed my end of the social covenant. I should have educated myself more carefully and made myself more employable, no? I should have chosen a decent partner1, and together we should have earned and saved enough to pay for ourselves. I should have taken steps all my life not to be a burden on anyone, right?
I mean, isn’t that the social covenant?