Tuesday, July 19, 2011

My Own Family Reunion - Social Security And Grand Ma

(This is a true story)

On the day prior to my planned visit to the Carolinas to meet up with my parents and other family members for their church sponsored "Friends and Family Day" I received a call from an aunt to serves as a caretaker for my grandmother. Each time I see the caller ID I have to admit that I prepare myself for some bad news. At 101 my grandmother is of diminished capacity. That once talkative individual who I could make laugh by saying something silly is now a presence in the room that one would hardly notice as she sits in her chair - silent.

Fortunately the call was not for the purposes of such bad news. Instead it was a summon for additional cash proceeds to be added to my grandmother's bank account. I told my aunt that I will bring the money with me and we can talk about it then.

Later on in the week, after my arrival I pulled a few of the bills that are always stored in a hanging rack on the kitchen wall.

  • Phone bill - $200 over due - threatened cut off
  • Electricity bill $400 over due - threatened cut off
(What the hell is going on here?)

My two aunts control the finances of my grandmother's house.  They pay a day care given to watch her during the day.  Each of them leave their own houses to watch her at night.  Their two other siblings (one of which is my mother) send money to help keep it all going.

Of the siblings
  • One is presently unemployed - her Unemployment funds having exceeded the 99 weeks
  • The other has a job but has a 20 something dependent child - who she needs to cut off - that is draining her surplus
  • The other is retired at present but sends a good portion of his pension check to care for his mother
  • My mother is retired but works a part-time job just to remain active
Collectively the group has 3 children - who are in no position to help out in this situation and then my parents have 5 children - each of which have good jobs, college degrees - but family obligations to take care of.  Of course - my own siblings (and myself) are the best source of supplemental funds.

In the past it was the winter heating bill that was the key trigger for funds.  No problem - with this awareness each of us would stuff money into grandma's bank account at the local branch in our respective cities.  

This present set of problems speaks to a greater fiscal management issue.  I do not have access to the information on income, expenses and where the money is going.

When I took a look at the bills I registered both the phone and electricity for web access.  This would allow me to see the monthly expenses and pay them off on line.  I cleared the balances of both of these accounts and let my siblings know that they should be prepared to chip in with this situation - past the winter-time heating supplements   

I will pay the phone bill.  The first step is to get them off of the small town phone service that is killing them with long distance charges.  Vonage is the most logical course.  $24 flat rate - talk all you want.  I need to get Internet access installed in the house to make it all happen - this is my next project.

My Views On Social Security
The news about the negative impact from social security cuts are not lost on me.  
Though the common talking point is that I am "voting against my own interests" if I support people who support cutting SS payouts - the reverse is actually true.   

The actuarial tables for Social Security tell me all that I need to know.  Anyone who is fully dependent upon this system is in for a rude awakening in the long run.

The real question is: Since you knew what the long term outlook foretold - WHY didn't you make sufficient preparation to reduce your exposure to the inevitable?  

Some of my local cousins are a bit of a disappointment to me.  They some had children as teen-agers, some 
dropped out of high school.  Some "let themselves go" physically.  During those fateful years where they needed to channel themselves for preparation for the standard of living that the rest of their lives would entail - they had little guidance and made the choices that will impact them for the rest of their lives.  Gone are the textile jobs that had once allowed people to make it in this region.

At the same time I have to credit them all.  They are providing primary care for my grandmother.  All of my siblings live elsewhere.  Indeed there is a great amount of value provided by them:
  • The general upkeep of the house
  • Lawn care
  • Food and household supplies
  • Direct Personal Care for grandmother
In as much as we are all a family with a commitment to the same thing: The Care Of Our Common Grandmother - the use of the family unit - some of which will provide financial support because they have it - others using their proximity to care for her and her house - this is the answer.

I will not be protesting the cuts in Social Security.  Today's merely push back the day of reckoning that will surely come to this program.

In the past - large families were required because their labor was needed to keep the family farming operations going.  Today our smaller families need to have the sufficient number of gainfully employed individuals that have an income which will allow them to help out family members in the time of need.

My personal beef is with the cousin who has a history of squandering educational opportunities that were provided to her (I know first hand from her stay in the metro area) and now she is a net dependent on her mother.  Whereas young children and the elderly are expected to be financial dependents - she is in her prime earning age yet is a net draw - due to the lifestyle that she chooses to live and a mother who is not yet inclined to cut her off.

This all ties back to the grand arguments that I have been making on this blog.  The benefit of sufficient "Human Resource Development and Management" is that there will be more "oars in the water" to increase the productivity of the interest group.   Certain thoughts and actions which tend to threaten the forward progress are mitigated or dealt with as the exceptions that they should be. 

With the awareness of the situation at hand - the bills will be paid by my siblings.  For me it is merely a change in priorities of my flow of money now that I am aware of what is going on.  

My personal interest in getting the Internet going is because the daughter of one of those cousins who had a child as a teenager is now a bright 7 year old who needs to be exposed to the Internet and more supplemental learning.  (More on this later)


Greg L said...

Hi CF,

We're all part of the sandwich generation where we're helping older parents or grandparents while meeting commitments for our own children. I've always believed that the best thing one can do to help someone is to make them stand on their own two feet rather than provide "economic outpatient aid". I've no problems helping people, but if you're in a constant position where you need "help", then that's a problem as that means you're either not trying to help yourself or you've not maximized the help you've received to help yourself. If you're able bodied and in your right mind, you need to be doing what you can to help yourself. This is in reference to the cousin to whom you've referred. Some people have no capacity to maximize help because that's not been demanded of them.

As to social security, it does have an actuarial problem in the sense that people are living a lot longer, but that's not the only problem. A serious problem arises from the unified budgeting where it was thrown into the federal budget under the Johnson administration. Essentially, the social security "excess" was used to mask unbridled defense/war spending and to justify cutting taxes. Effectively, this means that our social security taxes have been used to fund general government expenditure and the bulk of them are now sitting in the coffers of the munitions manufacturers. The social security surplus wasn't actually a surplus when the actuarial liability is considered, but actually savings against it, although underfunded. Secondly, the fact that the social security "excess" was used to justify tax cuts is the height of hubris. It's a little like saying that since you've got a nice 401k accumulation, you can take a pay cut. Of course, that's ridiculous, but that's how this whole argument has been couched.

They need to slash the war budget dramatically and now. In other words, get our money back from those who've stolen it from the trust fund. Once that's restored, we can address the actuarial problem.

Donn said...

Hey, saw your comments regarding the NAACP on the grio which led me to your blog, great stuff, really need to take the time to sift through and read through all of it, but you have a new reader