Letters: Selling yourself, Social Security over the generations

Letters in a computer with red mailbox flag

Tess Vigeland: I am now joined in the studio by Paddy Hirsch, who is doing such a fine job as fill-in show producer, he's agreed to go through our mailbag. Hey Paddy.

Paddy Hirsch: Hello Tess. Thank you. You know, I want to tell you about last week's show and the haul of mail that we got.

Vigeland: A haul?

Hirsch: Oh yeah. Here it is.

Vigeland: Holy cow.

Hirsch: And one of the most popular stories that we got mail about is about Social Security and how people from different generations view it. Here's on letter from Charlotte Freeman. She wrote in from Livingston. Mont. She said that she's helping to support her aging mother, and "nothing is better at making people save more than to see someone who only has Social Security to live on."

But William Knox from Madison, Wisc. had a comment about the assumption that Social Security is a safety net only seniors can use. He wrote, and I quote:

"40% of Social Security benefits go to the non-elderly.

40% of Social Security benefits go to the non-elderly.

40% of Social Security benefits go to the non-elderly."

And he went on for some time like this. And of course, he's absolutely right. And as we said in the story, Social Security does need to change by 2036, if it's not to go bust. And that may indeed mean reducing the benefits that go to the non-elderly. So it's nice to receive such enthusiastic support from a listener.

Vigeland: Even if he did not mean it that way, Paddy.

Hirsch: Yeah, even then. So, moving on to your chat with reporter Adriene Hill about selling parts of yourself.

Vigeland Yeah. This was your disgusting idea, as I recall.

Hirsch: And I'm happy to own it. I'm happy to say also, it met with some very positive comments. Including this one from Justin Miller, who offered up for example his own experience with "personal finance."

Justin Miller: I spent a whole year selling my "body parts" through plasma and medical tests. Surprisingly, I made approximately $6,000-$7,000 a year for about two horus of effort a week. Not a horrible way to supplement an income.

Vigeland: Indeed. I guess he must've needed the money pretty badly. What did he spend it on?

Hirsch: You ready for this? His son's college education.

Vigeland: Wow!

Hirsch: Yeah, I was pretty impressed. It made me wish I'd kinda heard his story before we spoke to Suze Orman.

Vigeland: She might have shouted at him for taking a risk with his health.

Hirsch: She might, she might. Maybe not as loud as she shouted at one of her viewers, as we heard last week.

Vigeland: Right. This is the lady who wanted to retire at 60. She had almost $800,000 in savings. But...

Hirsch: Yep, but Suze said it wasn't enough. She said she'd have to live on $1,800 a month, and that would be tough to do. And that triggered a tsunami of mail.

Vigeland: A tsunami!

Hirsch: Well, maybe just a deluge. Kristine Harkness wrote in from Pittsburgh to say she nearly drove off the road when she heard that. She's a university professor, and she says she lives on $1,800 a month. She suggested that Suze ought to get out more.

And Jean Davis from Denver, Colo. had this to say.

Jean Davis: Well, I thought that Suze seems to be basing her viewpoint in terms of someone in the upper-middle class or upper class. Many people live on $20,000 a year. That woman that she was talking about would also qualify for Social Security, which would soon enough give her more than $20,000 per year. I don't think that Suze's attitude is helpful, because it puts people off, like the 80 percent or so that don't even make $50,000 a year.

Vigeland: I suppose that's a fair point. We should say we did try to contact Ms. Orman to get her response to this and we have not heard back.

Hirsch: I think she's pretty busy. And finally, I don't know about you but I really enjoyed the dance off that you and David Lazarus had last week. And I'm not alone -- so did Gina Smith from Maryville, Mo.

Gina Smith: After the morning news about the debt ceiling debate and the Norwegian tragedies, the break dance portion was so funny that it lifted my mood considerably. Thanks

Vigeland: You're welcome and thank you for writing in. And thank you Paddy for all your help.

Hirsch: You're welcome.

Vigeland: And please do keep your comments coming. You can post on our Facebook page, you can tweet me at radiotess or write to us. Paddy it's been fun to have you here.

Hirsch: It's been wonderful. Thank you.

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