I met Ken in the summer of 1965. It was July 10 at 1:15 pm at the Primos-Secane Swim Club in Clifton Heights Pennsylvania. I was 13 and he was 15. I immediately found him to be irritating. He kept droning on and on about how Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones was the greatest hit single of all time (it had just been released the previous month and was being played incessantly on every radio station in the country.)
As he was an all-county fullback, he was surrounded by a throng of cow-eyed freshman girls hanging on his every word. As he pontificated, I tried my best to appear uninterested and bored. I was just about to leave the scene entirely and take a dip when he said what, to this day, was one of the stupidest and offensive things I’ve heard in my life.
“You know Motown really has seen its day, the Rolling Stones are the future of music.”
I couldn’t take it. The Stones had knocked the Four Tops out of the number 1 position that week and I was still smarting. (You have to remember this kind of thing used to mean a lot to people!) I marched right up to him and began poking him in his chest.
“No one cranks out more hits than Motown! It’s a statistical fact. All your stupid little English bands are just a rip off anyway. Besides, what do you even know about music Johnny Touchdown?”
His face immediately softened and he flashed me a warm smile I will never forget. He liked being challenged. You can say hindsight is 20/20, but I can say with all my heart at that very moment I knew that one day he’d be my husband.
And I was right. Ken and I were married after college. He was offered a coaching position at a high school in Miami and we jumped at the chance to leave the bitter northeast winters. To us, the climate, the fast growing city on the up and up, it was the American Dream come true.
I got a pretty good job working at the airport taking phone reservations for a major airline. We bought a brand new three-bedroom house in a suburban development on a half-acre of land.
If that sounds crazy on a teacher and receptionist salary remember things were different back then. Normal, working-class people could afford to buy new houses, and only rich people had credit cards. Ken and I were on the same page from day 1. We were determined to live within our means and save. We never got in over our heads with stuff we couldn’t afford. Our motto was “if something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.”
However, life can sometimes throw you curveballs.
When our only child, our beautiful daughter May entered grade school, we began to realize something was up. She wasn’t progressing and she was consistently behind the other children. Initially it was heartbreaking, she was clearly so intelligent and tried SO HARD, but something else seemed to be at play.
A particularly vigilant teacher had May tested, and we discovered she was severely dyslexic.
This was a whole new universe for us, as there was no one with special needs in Ken’s family or mine. In order for May to get the help she needed to catch up to other children her age, she needed to attend a special school
…and as you probably guessed it cost an absolute fortune.
Ken got a second job and worked through summer vacations. I grabbed as many extra hours as I could at my job, but this was difficult as well because May’s school counted on constant reinforcement of their lessons at home to give her the best chance for success. We found ourselves in a dilemma. I needed to work more to pay for May’s school, but if I was out of the house at night I couldn’t help her and she wasn’t getting the full benefit of the very school I was working longer hours to afford!
Somehow we got by, and she improved. Then the bottom dropped out.
At 38 years-old Ken had a heart attack. Because of a congenital condition that had gone undetected all this time, the love of my life was gone.
I didn’t even have time to grieve. By this point May was thriving in school and needed less assistance at home. I threw myself into work to pay for her schooling. For the next 20 years it seemed I worked everyday, but because of the changing fortunes of the airline industry three carriers I worked for went belly up, forcing me to change jobs 4 times in that period.
I want to be clear. I never stopped working. I worked like a maniac, but because I switched jobs so often I never was vested…I never was able to build up a significant pension.
Now May is out of college. It was a long struggle, but everything is fine. She’s married and starting a family of her own. Although it has been the single greatest joy in my life to see her ok and thriving, I feel that it’s come at a price. After all the hard work and sacrifice, between social security and my feeble pensions I’m left with barely enough to cover my monthly bills.
But I do have one thing, my house. Over the years the neighborhood has grown and I’ve built up a significant amount of equity. A friend of mine told me about reverse mortgages, and although I was initially skeptical I decided to go with it.
I’m not looking for sympathy or claiming to have had the hardest life. Surely there are people out there who have had it a lot harder than me. But after all the toil I feel I deserve to finally relax and be able to enjoy my retirement and the rest of my life.
With a reverse mortgage I no longer have to make mortgage payments. I chose to have my loan disbursed monthly. I use the money to spend time with May and her family, and I’ve also decided to do some travelling and finally fly out of that airport I worked at all those years!
The selling point for me was that the loan can never exceed the market value of my house. So even in the worst case scenario May and her family won’t be on the hook after I’m gone. All I have to do is retain the house as my residence and continue all my obligations (maintenance, taxes, insurance, etc.)
I’m happy I made this decision. After a lifetime of work, it’s finally my time.
If you are 62 or older and you own a house, you owe it to yourself to get a free information kit from the American Advisors Group. They are the industry leader and have been ranked number 1 in reverse mortgages for 2016. (Full disclosure, we partner with American Advisors Group and recieve a small referral fee if you give them your business.)