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They Called It The “Great” Depression For A Reason!

By Jesse Taylor
Thursday, June 5, 2008 3:34 EDT
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Broke-ass old age: the wave of the future.

Another report on the Social Security Web site tells us that the average Social Security benefit for a retired worker is now $1,082.30 a month. That’s before the Medicare part B premium of $96.40.

The solution here isn’t more money or another government program.

The solution is social. It is called sharing, having enough social skills to multiply your effective income to a level far greater than it could be made with ordinary cash.

Eating cat food to get by? Stop eating Friskies and start getting frisky!

Now let’s examine how economies of shared living can benefit a retiree.

Imagine a single retiree living in a 55-and-over trailer park. She has a monthly net Social Security benefit of $1,000. From that she has to pay $400 for land rent and $300 for the loan payment on the manufactured home. That leaves only $300 a month for food, clothing, transportation and everything else.

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Now let’s imagine the same person as she creates a “family” of retirees. She has a 1,400-square-foot double-wide trailer with four bedrooms and two bathrooms. Let’s see how things change as she builds her household and income is pooled to share expenses:

  • With one roommate with the same net income, household income doubles to $2,000. That leaves $1,300 after shelter expenses. That’s tight, but two people can eat and buy other necessities with $1,300 a month. In effect, each person has $650 a month to live on after shelter expenses, simply by living together.
  • Add a second roommate, and income triples to $3,000. That leaves $2,300 after shelter expenses. Each person has $767 a month for living expenses beyond shelter.
  • Have a third roommate, and income quadruples to $4,000. This leaves $3,300 after shelter expenses. With this much shared income, each person has $825 a month.

Although cramming seniors into trailers sounds like a fun new party game – and I’m all about the party games – oftentimes, our opposition to cramming all of our friends into as small of a space possible isn’t entirely about our need to have our own TV, but instead about very real obligations: the elderly often tend to own houses, have communal or familial roots, and even just find themselves trapped in the cycle of poverty that often keeps people stationary – living more cheaply often has a very high initial cost investment that is incredibly difficult to amass when you’re already thin on money.

It tends to be much easier to tell people on the edge how to get off of it than it is to actually execute said edge-exiting maneuvers, particularly when it involves what are likely major life changes for most seniors. On the flip side, any space with four or more people in it is legally a John McCain rally.

Jesse Taylor
Jesse Taylor
Jesse Taylor is an attorney and blogger from the great state of Ohio. He founded Pandagon in July, 2002, and has also served on the campaign and in the administration of former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland. He focuses on politics, race, law and pop culture, as well as the odd personal digression when the mood strikes.
 
 
 
 
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