The redhead selling tickets had a lot to say. She preferred not to give her name but told me her salary was about $54,000 as an administrative assistant. She knew that she would need both Social Security and Medicare. She is fifty-five and suffers from chronic migraines that sometimes interfere with her work. She said her doctor had recommended that she retire and go on Social Security disability, but the amount she would get—about $1700 a month—wouldn’t be enough to whittle down her credit card debt, pay her mortgage, repay loans against her 401(k) plan, and help with her daughter’s college tuition. She is a single mom with no child support. Her eyes filled with tears as she talked about her financial plight and the pain from her headaches. She brightened though, when I asked about the Phillies. “I am a big Phillies fan. Huge. Phillies and Eagles big time,” she said.
She had mixed emotions about raising the age for collecting Social Security benefits, noting that people are staying in jobs longer, but that doesn’t free up jobs for younger people who need them. “People stay because they have to,” she said. “I would go out at sixty-two if I had the income. It’s getting more and more difficult to work.”
The day before we met, she had left work at one o’clock because a migraine was getting the best of her. “Who wants to raise the retirement age?” she asked rhetorically. “The old guys who have money and don’t care and want to stay in office longer. Would somebody tell me what happened to people fall off employment and don’t have jobs. Things didn’t improve. They just stopped counting them. Tell the politicians to stop lying to me.”
The woman had strong opinions about Medicare privatization, too. She had heard of Paul Ryan’s plan, but didn’t know all the details. “It limits options for someone if they don’t have money to buy what they want,” she explained. She talked some about the health insurance she has now, which is provided by the bank. She explained that when Wachovia bank became Wells Fargo, employees had to pay more for their coverage. In the last five years, she has been hospitalized three times for her severe headaches and feels the pinch of higher copays and deductibles. Health insurance is a big reason why she says she will remain in the workforce. She knows she can’t swing it on her own.
For more from Trudy Lieberman on Social Security and entitlement reform, click here.