Luz Villafana

Three years ago, I retired from my job as a health worker for San Diego County after 17 years there.  I had worked since I was 16—when I immigrated to the U.S. and worked as a live-in while studying to learn English.  I live modestly but comfortably: Social Security and my pension together bring me up to 70 percent of my old salary.  I’m certainly not rich—when something breaks at home, I have to dip into my savings to get it fixed.  But my retirement is secure and I have time to spend with my three grandchildren.

By most measures, my two grown sons are doing even better than I was at their age.  They did everything you’re supposed to do to get ahead: they went to college, studied hard, and have great jobs.  They’re responsible adults who are raising families, volunteering, and saving for retirement.  I’m proud.

But a secure retirement like mine is unthinkable to them.  One has a very small pension and a 401(k)—and his company stopped contributing to it when the economy tanked.  The other just has a 401(k).  They will depend on the roulette of the stock market to buy groceries and medicine when they’re old.  They know it too—they tell me that they’ll be working past the age of seventy.

Hard-working Americans like my sons play by the rules, but still wonder if they’ll ever be able to retire.  Our retirement system is broken.  It’s time for us to fix it.