Sometimes I forget what it was like to have a steady liveable income. My new “normal” has become so ingrained, it’s easy to think that’s how it always was. Then I’ll wish I could buy a new sweater, for example, and I’ll remember there was a time when I really could buy a new sweater any time I wanted to.
This is one of those things that can be hard to understand until you live it. Politicians talk about cutting social security disability payments because they see the huge amount the program costs overall. They don’t consider what it’s like for an individual to have to actually live on the average payment of less than $1200 per month. (Full disclosure: my payments are above average. Of course, the cost of living in my city is also above average. I haven’t done the math to figure out if the ratios are the same or not.)
Of course, it’s all relative. There are people who aren’t on SSDI who only earn that much. There are people who earn $150,000 per year and are in debt. The former has their own set of issues that need addressing on a federal and state level. The latter has options, though. I miss having options.
Once upon a time I earned around the average national income of $50,000. Even in one of the most expensive cities in the country, I had no problem living on that salary. I just avoided spending money on certain things. I saved money every month. So while I couldn’t shop endlessly or at high-end stores, I could definitely afford to replace worn out clothes. That was my “normal” for many years.
It’s been a cold winter and that’s fine by me! The cold is much better for my body than the heat, so I’m happy about it. But unfortunately, my wardrobe is not. I have many t-shirts, but not many sweaters. The ones I have are old and out of style. Some are falling apart. They are pilling and developing holes. But I keep wearing them because I don’t have a lot of options. Sure, I have some savings, but SSDI only covers about half of my expenses each month and I need my savings for that other half. I can’t go throwing it around on clothes that I don’t really have to have.
It’s not the clothes that I miss, it’s the ease of of those purchases. It’s knowing that any money I spent would come back into my bank account and then some. It’s knowing there was always more where that came from. It was knowing that I had years, decades, to keep earning and saving.
And that security is what’s really been taken away.
Despite what certain politicians think, I would rather be working if it meant getting that security back. But the truth is, that’s just not an option for me right now.