I need help finding a comment March 29, 2014 8:28 PM   Subscribe

Ok, bear with me, I know this is vague: I've been searching fruitlessly for a comment about how one of the greatest predictors for whether or not an elderly woman will end up in poverty is if she owns her home.

I think this may have been part of a discussion on the blue about social security, but I could be wrong. Thanks!
posted by fozzie_bear to MetaFilter-Related at 8:28 PM (43 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

not a comment: Older Women, Divorce, And Poverty
As women approach retirement, they should also set their sights on owning a home, says Smeeding. The reason? Women with homes fare much better over the long term than those without one. If a woman gets divorced, she should try to bargain for the home. If she doesn't own her home, home ownership should be a long-term goal. And, as women financially plan for the future, they should take into account the fact that they are likely to live longer than the national averages, which include men. Therefore, they will need more savings and assets to support them through longer lives.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:59 PM on March 29, 2014 [10 favorites]


Hmmmm, interesting.
posted by theora55 at 6:20 AM on March 30, 2014


In summary: "Hey poors, just have money."
posted by Sys Rq at 8:41 AM on March 30, 2014 [32 favorites]


Exactly!

Gosh, why hadn't it occurred to me that I should just go buy a house. Problem solved!
posted by winna at 9:03 AM on March 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


I have a house, today is my 59th birthday, and I don't feel terribly secure. financially, as well as other ways, too, I suppose. But 37% of women 65+ in poverty? That's appalling, esp. given the very low income that defines poverty in the US.
posted by theora55 at 9:31 AM on March 30, 2014 [9 favorites]


well, uh, happy birthday theora55!
posted by ambrosia at 9:46 AM on March 30, 2014 [17 favorites]


But 37% of women 65+ in poverty?

Hello, sick feeling in my stomach. I see you're back again.
posted by bunderful at 10:44 AM on March 30, 2014 [15 favorites]


Owning a home strikes me as a rather pat generalisation of whether a woman will wild up in poverty. There are so many factors involved, more than a few of them out of personal control.

Happy Birthday, theora55!
posted by arcticseal at 11:05 AM on March 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


There is a difference between saying A and B are often found together and saying A, ergo B. So I'm not exactly sure I'd take the article the man of twists and turns links to as solid financial gospel.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:39 AM on March 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Hell, owning a home in Austin will lead to poverty with all the voracious property tax increases. Now that my home is paid off, I pay more per month in taxes today than my monthly mortgage payments were.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 11:46 AM on March 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


If you're an old lady with no income other than social security, owning your own home can be a negative because you are not eligible for any assistance programs through the state if you own your own home. That means no food stamps or help with medical bills or a caregiver or reduced phone rate or dental work. It's no problem early on, but with time and more physical problems, it can become a burden rather than a blessing. Unless you want to sell your home, which in itself isn't a small project for an old person, and then pay capital gains tax on the money you made, your house isn't anything except shelter - that needs maintenance and upkeep. IF your home is completely paid for, this is a good thing, but if you're still making payments on it, it's a terrible burden.

I have a friend who's 75 and still working as a caregiver to several old people, lifting them, bathing them, cleaning for them, just because she still has to make payments on her house. The house itself is is need of repair and the yard is a mess, which breaks her heart - she loves gardening and raising flowers. Someone broke into her basement when she was at work one day and tore out a bunch of copper wiring, which has scared her and hurt her financially, and she wonders, of course, when that person will come back for more. Many days she comes home exhausted and tearful because she just doesn't have the strength she had when she was younger and her work takes everything she has out of her.

Years ago I knew an elderly couple - he was a Justice of the Peace and she a housewife, who had lived very frugal lives in preparation for their retirement. They had a nice home, antiques, and a motorhome - and two kids. The lady had a bad stroke and had to go into a nursing home and her husband went with her because he wouldn't let her be along. First the savings went to pay for the nursing home, then the motorhome, then the antiques, and then, finally, the home. Still, they lived on. It broke his heart that he couldn't leave his home and stuff to his boys after so many years of planning that way. He told me there was a time when his wife wanted to go to Hawaii and he felt they should just stay home and save the money - and how he regretted that decision at that too-late date.

There simply are no guarantees - everything's a crap shoot, as they say.
posted by aryma at 3:11 PM on March 30, 2014 [18 favorites]


i can see the statement as making sense from a research standpoint; that is, "we looked at a bumch of women age 65+ and we found that of the ones in our sample who owned their own homes were less likely to end up in poverty than the ones who didn't own their own homes."

But that could mean a lot of things, for example, that owning your home means you have *something*, as opposed to, for example, neither group having any *other* assets. In other words, maybe home ownership is the first type of asset people have because most people want to own homes, because it's a value that's built into the culture (for better or worse) ---- So that, if you don't own your own home, you're not likely to have anything else either -- if you're a woman of a certain generation. it could be saying, "at least this woman had enough money to make a down payment on a home at some point in her life, which means at some point in her life she had extra income, and THAT'S what's predictive of less chance of later poverty)"

Something like that, maybe.

Certainly shouldn't be taken, however, as Predictive -- like, if you want to lessen your chances of being poor when you're older, buy a house. Nope.
posted by DMelanogaster at 3:19 PM on March 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


I gotta say that for once, the propensity for MeFi to beanplate things is a huge, huge comfort after reading that article. Whew. Thanks.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:08 PM on March 30, 2014


I think the answer is clear. We pool our resources and buy a house or two to live in together when we're all old ladies (sorry, old men; statistics say you'll probably be dead). Bravo or LOGO or somebody turns the whole thing into a reality show, some sort of real-life Golden Girls. PROFIT!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:57 PM on March 30, 2014 [30 favorites]


I am down for that.
posted by ocherdraco at 5:01 PM on March 30, 2014


Looking at the date from that link, it appears that the study was done just prior to the housing crash (it says that home ownership has been a good investment over the last 20 years). So it is possible that the crazy increase in housing prices disproportionately hurt women whose housing costs weren't fixed.
posted by snickerdoodle at 5:07 PM on March 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Hmm. This seems a good way to resurrect and extend a thread out of the blue.
posted by hal_c_on at 5:17 PM on March 30, 2014


Happy Birthday, Theora55!

And here I thought I was smart because we cut our rent in half last year when we moved into an upper in an older building. Heat included. So actually a lot less than we were spending at our old rental (which was a house).

I live in a nice, walkable neighborhood. It's quiet. Hospitals and grocery stores nearby, yet my street has towering pine trees. Most of the homes are single family. True, it's an hour's drive to the ocean, but I can afford the gas due to the cheap rent. I have a large kitchen. A second bedroom that serves as my office. Why should I buy a house? I can have a garden out back if I want, a nice deck, I can grill or sit out back, several shade trees. The only downside is carrying bags up to the second floor. Oh, and nice landlord. That is prime.

If something happened to my husband, I could stay here and be very comfortable. So why would I want to take on a house and mortgage? I guess that's like saying, if you can afford it, you will be okay? But as noted, they will try to take it away from you if you go into a nursing home, so why?
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:29 PM on March 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


owning your own home can be a negative because you are not eligible for any assistance programs through the state if you own your own home. That means no food stamps or help with medical bills or a caregiver or reduced phone rate or dental work. I just want to pop in and say, this is not true, so if you are reading this thread and despairing, you can at least not worry about that part. I own my own home - and I'm 50 now and poor as the proverbial church mouse, but I own the house - and I've been on food stamps and gotten help with medical bills. Granted, you have to be even poorer than I am now, which is pretty terrifyingly poor - at $11 an hour I no longer qualify for food stamps - but you can get some help. And I'm in the process of applying for some reduced cost home repairs courtesy of Habitat for Humanity and a local nonprofit, Mountain Housing, both of whom run programs for low income homeowners, so that possible lifeline is out there as well. Not saying it isn't bad (you know me better than that; I am the original avatar of Doom) because it is dire but there is some tiny help available - even in North Carolina.
posted by mygothlaundry at 5:39 PM on March 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


<grumble>The point of this metatalk is to find the comment in question, not to discuss the topic of the comment. </grumble>
posted by Justinian at 5:45 PM on March 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Technically, you're right, Justinian, but how is this very low key and not-fighty conversation hurting you?
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:48 PM on March 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


You may not know this, but poor Justinian is tied up in Matt's cellar and when we do it wrong they make him pat banana slugs on their sluggy bodies and eat sour apple pop rocks without giving him water to wash away the taste.

It's a sad time. :(
posted by winna at 7:34 PM on March 30, 2014 [24 favorites]


Because what do you have when there are no rules? ANARCHY!
posted by Justinian at 7:57 PM on March 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


And banana slugs.
posted by arcticseal at 8:32 PM on March 30, 2014 [12 favorites]


If you're an old lady with no income other than social security, owning your own home can be a negative because you are not eligible for any assistance programs through the state if you own your own home. That means no food stamps or help with medical bills or a caregiver or reduced phone rate or dental work....

There simply are no guarantees


Well, it does seem to be guaranteed that government programs will disincentivize people from getting ahead. As you said, welfare turns owning a home into something to be avoided.
posted by John Cohen at 8:38 PM on March 30, 2014


Also I think that's how you get ants.
posted by Mchelly at 8:41 PM on March 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


As you said, welfare turns owning a home into something to be avoided.

Well, it would if owning a home meant you can't get any forms of assistance, but it doesn't. aryma is incorrect about that.
posted by rtha at 6:12 AM on March 31, 2014 [5 favorites]


Also I think that's how you get ants.

No, anarchy lets your antelope.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:50 AM on March 31, 2014 [2 favorites]


and then pay capital gains tax on the money you made

This isn't (strictly) true, either.
You may be able to exclude from income all or a portion of the gain on your home sale. If you may exclude all of the gain, you do not need to report the sale on your tax return, unless you are required to otherwise file a return and you received a Form 1099-S (PDF), Proceeds From Real Estate Transactions. To determine the amount of the gain you may exclude from income or for additional information on the tax rules that apply when you sell your home, refer to Publication 523, Selling Your Home. Any gain that you may not exclude must be reported as income on your return.
A good summation here.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:01 AM on March 31, 2014


Bananarchy slugs.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:02 AM on March 31, 2014 [5 favorites]


Vermont-based photographer Peter Miller laments changes in the Green Mountain state.
posted by zarq at 9:03 AM on March 31, 2014


I think the answer is clear. We pool our resources and buy a house or two to live in together when we're all old ladies (sorry, old men; statistics say you'll probably be dead). Bravo or LOGO or somebody turns the whole thing into a reality show, some sort of real-life Golden Girls. PROFIT!

Actually, this IS my plan in retirement. Only we're all going to rent, and move around as the mood takes us. If we're poor, we'll rent in East Bumble, KY or some place. If we have some dough, we may do a ski cabin in Tahoe in the summer (renting it out for a profit in the winter) and winters...I dunno, some place warmish that won't cost the earth. It's still in the formative stages.

I will say that a lot of little old ladies are stuck in homes that are falling down around their ears, hard to keep clean and energy costs that eat up a lot of a fixed income.

So I'm not thinking that this is really all that great an idea.

But I'm at the tail end of the Baby Boom (the TAIL-tail end) so I'll be profiting from all that shit we put in place for our parents! Woo-hoo, elder housing!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:21 AM on March 31, 2014


Based on some of the replies in this thread, I feel like there's an important distinction to be made here between owning a home and owning a mortgage (i.e. a massive pile of debt).
posted by trunk muffins at 9:32 AM on March 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


I feel like there's an important distinction to be made here between owning a home and owning a mortgage (i.e. a massive pile of debt).

Absolutely, but my MIL owned her house outright and it was still eating up her fixed income. She paid $400 in electric bills because her furnace was installed in the Carter administration. The house had no insulation to speak of. It had been added onto over time, so nothing was even, the rooms were small...building permits? Building what? What Permits?

I'm not even going to get into the jankity water line, the shared septic system, the phone that was in the name of Husbunny's Grandpa, who went to Jesus about 40 years ago.

Even that paid-for house was more expensive than the place she has now. She sleeps well every night knowing that if something breaks, she calls the landlord (her boyfriend) and he fixes it for her.

Think about the little old ladies out there who can't get up the stairs so easily anymore, or who may not want to live so alone and isolated, or who have a 4 bedroom house and who just don't have the energy to clean the damn thing anymore.

Here's the quote from the article:


She could use the home as a hedge against long-term care risks. For example, one might trade the house in for assisted living arrangements or take out a second mortgage and use that to fund some home care.


The idea being that she's not LIVING in the home, it's just a chunk of assets waiting to be used.

Screw that, a better deal would be money in a retirement fund. It's liquid, and it lets a little, old, lady go where she wants and do what she wants.

Actually having a house in your old age...that's no fun at all!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:34 AM on March 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


Over the next fifteen years, I am going to work my arse off, buy a block of land in a nice town I know, build 3-6 small semi-self-contained passive solar cottages or units set around a large living area and courtyard and rent them to old childless crones like myself. We are going to have cats. And a minuture pony to keep the lawn down and provide poo for the compost. We are going to share things like laundries and gardens and home help, talk books, have lovers, have parties and film nights and dinners. And we are going to dance around open fires in the moonlight singing old crone songs (probably from the 1970s). Life will be good and affordable and fun.

In other words, the possibility of being an old lady in poverty scares the bejesus out of me. Being a lonely old lady in poverty scares me even more.
posted by Kerasia at 3:44 PM on March 31, 2014 [20 favorites]


And a minuture pony to keep the lawn down and provide poo for the compost.

Sheep make better lawnmowers, produce inoffensive pellets of poo, and (if you are willing to be hard-hearted) turn all that grass into lovely stew and roasts.

That aside, your cottages sound ideal and I'd move in today.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:18 PM on March 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


Rhiannon rings like a bell in the night and would you love to love her....

I'm a crone and I keep cats!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:54 PM on March 31, 2014 [3 favorites]


Think about the little old ladies out there

Some of us are in here, actually, and at least one of us is wondering, whatever happened to calling adult female-identified persons women?
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:55 PM on March 31, 2014 [5 favorites]


Sheep make better lawnmowers, produce inoffensive pellets of poo,

We will have to agree to disagree with that summation.

Pony poo offensive? How can one think such a thing?
mumble grumble off my lawn

posted by Kerasia at 5:23 PM on March 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


Kerasia, I would sign up for Croneville in a heartbeat.
posted by arcticseal at 8:34 PM on March 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


Kerasia: Put me on the waiting list, m'kay?

Srsly, if I had some cash, and could buy the property behind me, I'd build a multi-unit, with 6 or so small efficiency apts., and a common kitchen, dining room, living room, and screened-in porch, plus garden plots and a dog run, and I'd recruit some other women to live there, raise hell, chill out, and get older.
posted by theora55 at 8:54 PM on March 31, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'd like to wave a big flag at any women/ladies who are not yet past the time when they can make big changes to YES! Get out there and set up a communal living setup for yourself and other old ladies/women - do it now, while you still can.

My friends and I talked about that - and talked and talked and talked about that - 20 years ago. How I wish we'd just done something other than talk.

As far as my earlier comments about the unavailability of state and federal assistance if you own your own home, okay. Some clarification: First, if you're old and in the usual decrepit shape that most of us get to at one point or another, you're simply not able to either 1) take care of a home that you own, physically or financially, or 2) go through all the hoops involved in selling your home - c'mon, folks - think about it. Selling a home involves realtors and assessors and getting all neglected maintenance up to scrap and paperwork and paperwork and OMG the stress - and then, you get to move!

As for the big, horrid word WELFARE, ye gods. How I wish I could just begin to point out the number of years of hard work these women/ladies have put in in the process of getting to "old." Some of us have worked our entire lives, paying into the WELFARE system all along, and others have supported their husbands and raised children and kept a home for half a century or more. I just want to say How Dare You to anyone who thinks that's not enough to qualify for food stamps.

The couple I wrote about were in Colorado, about 25 years ago, and as long as they were inpatients in a nursing home they were required to pay their own way if they had assets - like a home, antiques, a motorhome. Only when all were used up, the home sold and even that amount put toward the nursing home expenses, then the state or feds or both would take over the cost of the nursing home. From one standpoint, it all makes sense, but from the standpoint of an old man and his wife who thought they were doing things right - well: Take a look in a mirror, you who criticize and yet think you're doing right.

My caregiver friend is here and now - she gets a few foodstamps and has had a government paid upgrade of her house from a heat efficiency standpoint, but her siding is falling off and her yard is gone and her washing machine quit working and she'll have to replace that, and there's more if you want to hear it - but - she's 75 years old.

Sorry to be so troublesome, Justinian. Thank you for letting me explain this.

And women/ladies: Build it and they will come!
posted by aryma at 11:18 PM on March 31, 2014 [3 favorites]


We bought a couple of Shetties for lawnmower duty on our two acres. They're cute as hell but they rip the crap out of the grass and leave it looking all torn up and sad, and their hooves compact the soil, and they cost a fortune to keep healthy, and keeping them worm-free involves a lot of time spent picking up horse poo so the grass doesn't all just crawl with worm larvae.

Then we got a few donkeys from the same guy we bought the ponies from, because he couldn't look after them any more because emphysema, and we had to put guards around all our trees because ringbarking.

Then we got Angora goats to keep the blackberries under control, and they just got stuck in them and learned not to go near them, and they crapped everywhere as well and controlling their worms required an endless round of Ivermectin and the other thing, alternating because resistance, and even so they eventually got Barber's Pole worm which killed them before we figured out (a) what it was and (b) that none of the anti-helminths we were using were effective against it.

Seriously, the best grazing animals for lawn control would have to be alpacas - because they pick one spot to crap in that isn't where they feed. They're cute as hell as well, and generally sweet-natured, and you can shear them for hair to keep your crone spinning wheels spinning and although they browse trees they don't eat bark and they will stomp the foxes that try to get into your chicken coop. Once there's room out back for more animals I will definitely be getting in a few of those.
posted by flabdablet at 6:20 AM on April 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


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