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Seniors pinched by souring economy, reminded of The Great Depression

18 October 2008 No Comment


From left to right, Warren Wilson, 74, Jean Terry, 81, Nancy Emmert, 85, Janice Thien, 70, Sid Glickfeld, 83, and Mary Johnson, 78, attend a current events discussion held on Wednesday’s at the Fremont Senior Center. The economy has been central to the group’s recent discussions, including the evaporations of more than $2 trillion in retirement savings as a result of the slumping stock market.


Story and photo by Tyler Sipe

The recent precipitous decline of the stock market is hitting Fremont seniors particularly hard.

In the past 15 months alone, Americans’ retirement plans have lost as much as $2 trillion – or about 20 percent overall, according to Congressional budget analysts and reported by the Associated Press.

At the Fremont Senior Center, the economy was on the mind of about two-dozen residents attending a current events discussion group held every Wednesday.

Many of the attendees noted increased stress caused by concern for their dwindling investment and retirement accounts, which help sustain their living expenses.

Mission San Jose resident Shirley Lancaster, 74, said she reviewed her most recent investment statement, which disclosed a decrease in her retirement fund of more than $30,000 in one months time.

 “I’ve been watching my retirement go downhill,” said Lancaster, who blames the Bush administration for the nation’s recent economic malaise.  “I’m in it for the long haul and definitely hoping for better times.”

However, Lancaster said she is not too worried about her living standard in the current economic environment, because her retirement portfolio is diverse and she saved portions of her paychecks during her 20-year career working at Macy’s department store.

She said her greatest concern is for the younger generations, who are not particularly frugal or keen on saving.

“When we were kids we worked,” Lancaster said. “Now days you got to pay the kid to take out the garbage.

“It’s Christmas every day for today’s youth.”

Fremont resident Sid Glickfield, 83, shared similar sentiments.  He and his wife Helen Glickfield, 83, lost more than $35,000 in stock related investments during September.

As a result, the two said they intend on cutting back on unnecessary expenses.  The duo plan on having fewer dates to area restaurants and examine the newspaper more thoroughly for deals and coupons.

“To hell with consumerism,” said Glickfield, speaking about his perception of Americans’ spending habits.  “That’s what got our country in this mess, everyone spends on the cuff.”

Glickfield said he also see’s a lot of similarities between today’s current economic downturn and The Great Depression – an era marked by a decade of double-digit unemployment, falling incomes and a stock market collapse.

Barbara Reed, 77, of Fremont, said she’s a byproduct of The Great Depression.  Many of her spending habits were learned from her mother, who raised her as a single parent on an income of about $100 a month during the 1930’s while living in San Francisco.

“We didn’t have a cent extra,” Reed said.  “We ate everything out of cans.”

Reed said learning from her mother’s frugal spending habits has helped her weather bad economic times.  Reed said she lives at the poverty level, relying on social security and savings equaling about $1,200 a month. Her only assets include her paid-off condominium and green 1973 Volkswagen Beetle.

Reed said she has always examined price tags and frequently travels to three different stores in order to find the best deals for all of her living needs.

“I don’t think people have realized what may happen to them if this bail out doesn’t work,” she said. “Some things point to a second Great Depression.”


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