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In this week’s “Social Security and You,” Tom Margenau explains who’s to blame when senior citizens are forced to rely solely on social security to keep themselves afloat:

So who’s to blame if the older seniors didn’t get the message and relied too much on the government to take care of them? Were they lazy or just unlucky? Obviously, some people simply didn’t plan well. But many times, it was circumstances beyond their control that drove them towards poverty.

My own parents didn’t save very much for their retirement. But when I discussed this with my then-widowed mother shortly after I started working for the Social Security Administration, she told me that even though both she and my dad were working (both at low-paying jobs that offered no pension), there was simply no money left at the end of each month after paying the rent and utility bills and buying groceries to feed four children. Putting money aside for retirement was just a pipe dream for my parents — and many like them.

And there are hundreds of other examples of circumstances that caused people to be unlucky. For example, a large number of those very poor, older senior citizens are women whose husbands wouldn’t allow them to work. Then, as they approached what was supposed to be their golden years, their husbands dumped them to marry some younger woman. Suddenly, the wife who spent a lifetime putting food on this bum’s table, washing his underwear and raising his kids, was left with a meager divorced wife’s pension from Social Security. I don’t think you would call her lazy.

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