My Introduction to Social Security

I want to begin by saying this is NOT a political statement. Neither am I unconcerned about the potential impact that changes in Social Security benefits may bring to us. Yet, the frequent media reference to this topic stirs memories for me of the family drama that introduced me to the concept.

I need to begin by saying that my Norwegian emigrant grandmother held strong convictions. As the years passed these convictions grew stronger and attempts to modify them with reason grew more futile. Among these fiery views was one that equated financial dependence with sin. Hard work and frugal living were not choices for her; they were essential for community respect and community respect was needed to protect the family name.

Somehow as she grew older her ability to trust decreased and she began to fear we would “put her on the town.” This expression was used for people whose financial distress required the rural township they lived in to pay some of their bills. We fervently promised never to do this but she remained suspicious. Then the worst thing happened! A check from the government came in the mail addressed to my grandmother for the amount of $35. The check was accompanied by a letter explaining this amount wouldl be coming every month. It described a new eligibility for farmers who had not paid into the system. The thing was called Social Security.

It’s hard to describe in words the sense of betrayal my grandmother experienced as she was convinced we had requested this money. Her anger found colorful expressions from both her broken English and fluent native language. When efforts to explain or calm failed, we decided the easiest thing to do would be to contact Social Security and refuse the money. This decision brought a new surprise. We learned that there was no way to stop the money. The benefits could not be declined. The law required that the government issue the funds for which the person was eligible. Now what do we do? Thankfully, we learned about direct deposit.

What thoughts does this family story surface for you?

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2 Responses to My Introduction to Social Security

  1. Ginni Schom says:

    I want to know how long ago this was. Wondering how far $35 a month would go, :-0
    Isn’t it amazing how we hate to ask for help, and think we need to do it alone.

  2. Roselyn says:

    I think this was in the early to mid fifty’s. We are all on a continuum regarding this issue. My grandmother, who we knew by the norwegian translation of Besta held down one end for us!! Thanks for your comment

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