Annie Ratcliff

I work as a nurse’s aide.  And when I get off of work I go…work as a nurse’s aide.  That’s right, I work two jobs as a nurse’s aide: one at a state nursing home for veterans and the other at a private nursing home. 

That’s 80 hours a week, 16 hours a day of feeding, bathing, and dressing elderly patients.  I also take their temperature, monitor their health, and lift them.  It’s a job that’s as exhausting mentally as it is physically.

I’m 53 years old and so retirement’s certainly on my mind.  Not because I’m picking between timeshares in Aspen and Hawaii, but because I don’t see how I’m going to retire—even though I have two jobs with two different retirement plans.

One job gives me a pretty good 401(k): I put in 8% and my employer matches it.  But no matter how much my employer and I put in, we can’t make up for the value of my 401(k) falling by half since the market crashed. 

I also pay $200 a month into a pension at my other job and I know it won’t be enough to live on.   Before working as a nurse’s aide, I worked at a laundromat for 15 years.  Their pension will pay $116 a month—so that’ll cover part of my heating bill.

What about working through my 60s?  Nurse’s aides spend the day lifting, pulling, and pushing patients.  It’s pretty easy to hurt yourself in this job—just last year I had to take 3 months off work because I pulled my back out.  I’m not too confident I would have recovered if I had been 68.

We put our parents, grandparents, brothers, and sisters in nursing homes when they are too frail to take care of themselves.  But if I continue working, I would be the same age and just as frail as my patients.  That makes no sense for anyone. 

So what do I do?  Do I keep on working until my back gives out?  Do I retire regardless—even if that means living my “golden years” in poverty?  It’s something I think about each and every day.  And I still don’t know.