Occupation: Retired, formally an artist and in sales
Personal life: 70 years old, widowed
Biggest financial concerns: To survive on my own, both in health and financially. When I turned 69 in the fall of 2007, I thought things were going to get rough. I knew my beloved husband was getting to a place where he was not going to be alive much longer. Because of negative financial investments 10 years before, we were already financially strapped, living on a very limited income from his years in sales. Living in a rental, we were already living close to the bone, even with the minimal income he was able to work for. So, we had planned what to do and how I should proceed. Well, was I surprised when I thought it was outlined and would be difficult at best—but it was even worse than I had ever imagined.
The day after he died, the reality began. All of his income stopped and I was left with a very small savings account and an outgo twice as much as what the social security I was going to receive would handle. So I had to move very fast. I searched out housing for myself. Even a small rental was way out of my reach, and then I remembered that mobile housing could be a choice. Being very blessed, I was so fortunate to find a needy fixer-upper in a nice mobile home park for seniors. It took every bit of money I had, plus I had to borrow to get moved into this new home. I left everything I knew in our happy home and neighborhood, moving while still numb from my losses—both of my dear partner and all income.
Lessons learned from The Difference: That what I was doing was on the right track. It gave me hope and some optimism returned. It brought back to me the lessons of my younger years when we had to stop any spending and think about what the choices were in front of me—which at this point were few.
The parts of The Difference that helped me the most were some of the tests that were in there to jog the memory and get to the basis of my feelings. I needed to rely on myself and not on things material, in which to base my inner feelings of value. It gave me motivation to keep on going, because quite frankly, I was ready to just call it quits. The job at hand was so overwhelming that it could have been very easy to give up. When I received The Difference, I sort of just sat down with it and figured I would read to see if there was any magic in there to "fix" my problems. Well, the magic was in the reading and getting into the reality of how with a few adjustments within myself, I could make a big difference in how I look at what is in front of me and for the rest of my life.
I had to acknowledge that exercise and proper eating would also make a change in how I faced these challenges. It is 16 months since I came face to face with my new reality, and many lifetime changes have taken place. This has been a very difficult but rewarding and complicated learning year. I have faced my severe loneliness and the deep, frightening fear of being alone with nothing but my social security. If I am lucky, I may live to be 80 to 85, and although it is very, very tight financially, at least I feel safe in my little nest and that my immediate needs of shelter and food will continue.
Favorite chapter from The Difference: Favorite chapter is hard to pick, as I found something everywhere. A little bit here and there that related to me. Funny name, The Difference, actually made a difference to me. Jean, your book and your show has actually added to giving me hope to go forward.