Retirement Planning for the Poor

Library of Congress:  New England Housewife 1940

In my childhood days, living in New England, there were many called "the working class."  These were traditional families where Dad worked while Mother stayed home to care for the family.  It was a simpler time.  (By today's standards, financially speaking, these would be considered "poor" people.)

Mothers were busy making food from scratch. In those days, convenience food was not common. Most Housewives did not trust pre-made frozen foods! They had always made their own food and felt it was wholesome and nourishing.  Mother took pride in feeding and caring for her husband and children.

These Mothers deep cleaned their homes on a regular basis. They mended the family clothing. They were productive at home doing things that did not earn them any money.  The fathers went to work earning the living.

In those days, debt was something to be avoided.  But the goal, here in America, was to own one's own home.  In the early 1970's, many houses were available for around $20,000.  These were lovely homes that were very simple.  Once a family purchased a home, they generally stayed there. This established neighborhoods and communities with people everyone knew and trusted.  This also gave them security that they had a home which was either "paid for" or would be paid off in the near future.

Owning a home was a big part of financial planning. It brought stability and security.  In some families, particularly in Italian homes, once Mother and Dad were older, they would have a grown child still living with them, perhaps a son with his wife and children.  This helped them take care of one another. It also kept expenses low since there were more people to share the work and the cost of living.

The house was kept within the family.  Sometimes a bachelor son or maiden daughter was still living in the house when the parents passed on to Heaven. It was called "the family homestead," even if it was a small house in the suburbs of Boston.

The biggest investment a family could make was to own a humble home.  Planning for retirement meant working for as long as it was physically possible. It meant making sure there was a gravesite for the final resting place.  It meant doing one's best to have a basic life insurance policy to cover the cost of a burial.

Things have not changed that much.  There are still "working poor" families whose best investment is owning and maintaining the family homestead.   In Scripture we are told that the poor will always be among us.  There is certainly nothing wrong with being either poor or rich.  There are just different ways of living and planning for retirement.

I have always loved having a house full of people. It is a blessing to have grown children, and even grandchildren living in the same home.  This is what I have grown up with, and what I have always known.  (For those who are not familiar with this kind of life, there is an excellent example of this on the television show, "The Waltons." )

Middle and Upper class families may have all kind of investment strategies.  There are excellent books which teach all about retirement planning for those with "disposable income."  It is certainly important and noble to be a good steward of the money one has.  But realistically, the working poor are not going to have investment portfolios or plans of retiring from work early.  They are not going to have disposable money.  And that is okay! 

I have seen many of the working poor live beautiful lives of simplicity and godliness. I have seen them live with a focus on their Eternal Home.  The contentment they feel is inspiring.  They have worked hard their entire lives and passed on the work ethic to their children and grandchildren.  Their values of morality, thrift, and charity are admirable and worth emulating.

Sometimes, the main goal of retiring for the poor is simply looking forward to that incredible resurrection morning and hearing:

"Well done, thou good and faithful servant. . .  enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."
 - Matthew. 25:21

Mrs. White

From the Archives -

Old Fashioned Living - Thrifty Elegance.

In Case You Wondered - The Secret to a Clean House.

Old Time Frugality - To Earn and not To Spend.

Mrs. White's special book for Homemakers - "Mother's Book of Home Economics."

An Invitation - Subscribe to The Legacy of Home and have it delivered directly to your email. 


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