“My plan is just to work until I die.” That’s how my mom sums up her retirement prospects.
She’s worked more than 40 hours a week as a legal secretary in north Florida for as long as I can remember. When my brother and I were kids, we went to her office every Saturday and entertained ourselves by sliding across the floor in fancy law firm chairs while our single mom worked overtime in her cubicle.
She managed to get me into college on a scholarship, and my brother got there on the GI Bill after a stint in the Army. Yet the American dream still hasn’t quite paid off for her. My mom’s one of the 62 percent of Americans who lives paycheck to paycheck. Even at age 60, she still doesn’t have paid sick leave or vacation time, and she avoids the doctor because she can’t afford her $2,000 deductible.
When I had to undergo a stem cell transplant to treat my stage 4 cancer in 2010, her employer allowed her to take a few days off to help care for me in Washington, D.C. Because she had no savings, my coworkers at the Institute for Policy Studies took up a donation drive to cover her travel and time off work.
My IPS colleagues recently released a report on the retirement gap between CEOs and workers. They found that nearly half of working age Americans have no access to retirement plans through their jobs. When I asked my mom about her own retirement savings, I learned she had nothing at all.
That terrified me.