National Nurses United

National Nurse magazine July-August 2011

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Worse, Cannon is afraid that that her children's financial and work futures will never improve. "I worry for my kids that they might just never be able to work at their full potential, to have a full- time, satisfying job that allows them to give all they have as well as support themselves," said Cannon. Cannon says she's disappointed that government has let the cor- porate sector run amuck, hoarding billions of dollars while entire generations of young people amass tens of thousands of dollars in school debt, then can't find meaningful, living-wage jobs and have few opportunities. "Our country is not broke. We're just as rich as we ever were," said Cannon. "It's frustrating for me to see that it's no longer important for us to take our wealth and invest it in our kids, much less the arts, smooth roads, bridges, and parks. I grieve that our society has lost its way on those things." Catie Sager, RN R egistered nurse catie sager is 29 years old and still lives with her parents. Unlike many in her generation, how- ever, Sager does not need them as much as they need her. Her parents, Sharon and David, are in their mid 60s and still living paycheck to paycheck. To help out their finances, Sager pays the mortgage on their house in Belton, Mo.; her mother pays the utilities, and they split the food bill. For most of his career, Sager's dad, a musician, has worked in local music stores, selling instruments, giving private drumming les- sons, and renting equipment to bands. Her mother used to be a trav- el agent, and now works as an administrative assistant for a mutual funds investment company. Though both have worked all their lives, their salaries alone are not enough to make ends meet, much less save for retirement. In addition to her regular job, Sharon puts in many hours every week in side jobs making all kinds of cakes and sewing costumes for local college dance troupes. At the height of dance competition season in January, Sager's mother can work 80 to 90 hours a week. "She's always up by 6:30 and doesn't get to sleep until midnight," said Sager. "She has arthritis and I know her hands are hurting from all the typing, baking, and sewing. I can tell it's taking a toll on her. She's always tired. Even when she sleeps, her hands and legs hurt. I wish she didn't have to work so hard." About six years ago, Sager noticed that her father's income kept shrinking each time the music store he worked for got bought out by a different, larger company. It got to the point where her parents weren't able to meet their expenses. Sager's mother started asking her for small loans to bridge the gaps every month, and eventually Sager offered, after securing a full-time nursing position at Menorah Medical Center, to pay the mortgage. "I'm sure it's really hard for a parent to ask their child for money," said Sager, "but she's good and works so hard. Until I got my nursing salary, I couldn't really afford to live, either. Fortunately, we get along really well together." In 2008, Sager's father came down with some health problems. First he got diverticulitis and had to have part of his colon removed. That prompted a series of other surgeries. Plus he had to have a hip replacement. Though he had health insurance through his wife's job, they still had to pay deductibles, copays, and 20 percent of the medical bills. Sharon cashed out part of her 401(k) savings to pay those, so there's not a lot left to retire on. They will be almost completely dependent on Social Security when they can no longer physically work. "Those few years when he was having all those surgeries really put them back," said Sager. To keep their health costs down, Sager's mother avoids going to the doctor if she can help it. Though she's borderline diabetic and herself suffers from diverticulitis, she con- trols those conditions through her diet. But she just endures the arthritis, occasional cold, or pulled Achilles tendon. "I worry about them for sure, whether they're going to be able to support themselves when they retire," said Sager when asked about their future. What will happen to their household arrange- ment when her parents can't work or when she wants to start her own family? "We just kind of deal in the moment," said Sager. "I'm not sure what's going to happen. I don't think Mom knows, either." Lucia Hwang is editor of National Nurse. J U LY | A U G U S T 2 0 1 1 W W W . N A T I O N A L N U R S E S U N I T E D . O R G N A T I O N A L N U R S E 19 Main Street Contract for the American People ✓ Jobs at living wages to reinvest in America ✓ Equal access to quality, public education ✓ Guaranteed healthcare with a single standard of care ✓ A secure retirement with the ability to retire in dignity ✓ Good housing and protection from hunger ✓ A safe and healthy environment ✓ A just taxation system where corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share For more information and to join the campaign, go to Tell your own story and learn how you can help heal America. Profiles_REV 2 8/16/11 5:17 PM Page 19

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