A view of ‘Gift of the Magi’ through cataracts

Opal and Henry Wiseman are typical retirees living on a fixed income but they are optimistic about their financial outlook. Did they win the lottery? Come into an inheritance? Find a forgotten $20 bill in the pocket of a winter coat?

Nope. They are super excited about the 0.3% social security raise slated for next year.

How will they spend their windfall? 

Let’s fast forward into the year 2017 to see how an extra $4 per month* affected the Wisemans’ lifestyle.

Opal and Henry have been married 52 years, so they are beyond having lengthy discussions about money matters. Or about any matters for that matter.

But no matter.

In an act of self-sacrifice they quietly made plans to hoard their bonuses to buy something special for each other for Christmas.

Photo courtesy Depositphotos: used with permission

They are accustomed to delayed gratification out of necessity but it still wasn’t easy to resist promotions from entities eager to line their pockets with the Wisemans’ increased discretionary income.

Here is what they resisted to successfully cling to their coins:

  • Still reeling from the nasty 2016 election campaign the government launched a new program to support Extra Clean Campaigns for an annual donation of $48.
  • Walgreen’s ran a special: buy one giant bottle of glucosamine for $44, score a second bottle for $4.
  • McDonald’s tempted them with a supersized coffee rewards card; buy 48 cups of 99-cent coffee and get 4 freebies.
  • AARP bombarded them with a letter campaign promising more lobbyists crusading for a bigger raise in 2018 if they relinquished $4 per month to the cause.
  • The couple received a plea from their grandsons requesting $15 in their birthday cards this year instead of the customary $5. The Wisemans crushed the boys’ dreams with three simple words, “Medicare donut hole.”
  • Geico released a cute new commercial promising an auto policy regardless of accident history with a $48 rider providing coverage for 0.3% of a lawyer’s retainer fee.
  • The Dollar Store tempted them with a flyer showing happy elders trudging home with bags full of meaningless plastic stuff.
  • Walmart promised Henry a single pack Viagra for $4 if he transferred his 12 prescriptions to their pharmacy. They didn’t offer any incentives to Opal since they know every time she walks into their store she spends an average of $55.
  • Dunkin Donuts ran a special knowing that seniors caught in Medicare’s incomprehensible donut hole need to eat something besides ramen noodles.
  • Wells Fargo seized the opportunity to help seniors out of their financial pinch by offering a special deal on reverse mortgages.
  • The local casino offered golden-agers a monthly special of $4 margaritas for the privilege of pouring their entire social security check into a slot machine.

Despite these overwhelming temptations, the Wisemans held fast to their funds, trembling with excitement Christmas morning when they saw two neatly wrapped packages under their ceramic tree.

Henry opened his cufflinks and wailed, “Oh Opal! I sold my shirt to a vintage clothing store to supplement my puny $48 so I could buy your present!”

Opal opened her gift of a new gold chain and gasped, “Oh Henry! I sold my pendant to pad my meager $48 so I could buy your present!”

And this is why senior citizens can’t have nice things.

Are you currently receiving a monthly social security check, looking forward to the 2017 raise? Or are you like me working full-time, watching 6.2% of your paycheck matched by your employer whisked off to Washington with the promise of future prosperity? What would you do with an extra $4 per month?

*the actual amount of the raise is $3.72.

©2016, Stevens. All rights reserved.

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9 thoughts on “A view of ‘Gift of the Magi’ through cataracts

  1. I shared this on my FB page, but I used it as a starting point to cast some light on the problem of poverty in our senior population, as well as a plea for people to consider what they can do to help those in this situation.

    There’s often a bit of reality along with every laugh.

    Thank you for giving this public health nurse an opportunity to stand on the soapbox for a few minutes.

    • I see first hand every day how seniors living on social security struggle. When I heard about the raise it made me mad. And when I get mad there is often a humor essay that results. I find humor opens peoples minds more than beating them over the head with a point of view. Thank you for sharing on your FB page, Crystal.

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