If you haven’t yet done so, you should read Joanna Ossinger’s piece titled “Does the Downturn Make You Sick? An Ode to My Dad”1. It was so familiar, I was wondering if I had written it myself.
My Dad was a pipefitter at Norfolk Shipbuilding & Drydock, never made more than $19,000 a year and built the house I grew up in. It took him three years, working as long as six or seven hours every weekday evening after he was done with his day job and all day Saturday. My Mom was a seamstress — a damn fine one, I might add.
We had one of those families where Dad came home every Friday and traded Mom his paycheck for some cash. Mom paid all the bills and balanced the checkbook. She went to great lengths to save a penny wherever she could. When she felt she had accumulated an extra $50 we didn’t need, she went to the bank and bought a CD. My dad would often tease her because what she was doing seemed so miniscule in the grand schema of things. She was in her 70’s before she ever knew what it felt like to own a brand new car.
When my Dad passed away in 2001, he left my Mom with no debt and somewhere in the neighborhood of $240,000 in assets. As we saw her expenses increase due to dementia and a stroke that left her unable to walk without assistance, I couldn’t help but think of all the times she carted that $50 to the bank and said “this is so you and your brothers won’t have to take care of us when we get old”.
My Mom died last year at the young age of 92 and still had something left over to leave to her kids. Just goes to show that if you live smart, spend smart and save smart… things have a way of working out.